AIFO (Associazione Italiana Amici di Raoul Follerau) was born in 1961 in Bologna thanks to a group of doctors and Comboni Missionaries, inspired by French journalist Raoul Follerau, who is known for having dedicated his life to the fight against leprosy and the emargination of diseased people.

Through the years AIFO has opened offices across all Italy and has amplified its objectives and range. Silvia Pisano, an university student and a long time volunteer in Cagliari’s AIFO center, has told us about it.


AIFO in the world

“Right now we have fifty active projects, more or less, in different areas. In Africa we are based in Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Mozambique, but we operate also in countries such as Mongolia, India and Brazil”, explains Silvia. “India and Brazil especially have very high rates of disabled and lepers, despite being considered emerging economies and therefore less in need for help than other countries.” AIFO aims to help disabled people with community-based inclusion projects, like training courses that allow target people to learn a job. Moreover, several projects targeting women and aiming to help them reach economic independence have been implemented in recent years.

AIFO staff follows the projects on the field just at the beginning. As soon as someone among the target population completes their formation, AIFO keeps sustaining them from a distance.

The pandemic has been a huge complication for AIFO, especially in Brazil, where government’s guidance has lacked. In Africa, on the other hand, awareness projects have worked pretty well, especially thanks to women’s contribution.

AIFO is affiliated with FOCSIV, partner of WHO and co-founder of two among the most important global organization on disability, the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Association (ILEP) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC).


AIFO in Italy

Lately AIFO has set itself the task of enforcing its presence in Italy. “Especially with the pandemic, we realized that even in our country there are people who are in dire need of help”, tells Silvia. “In Cagliari we are cooperating with Agesci in order to train young volunteers, then we are trying to raise awareness about Covid-19 and to search funds to sustain our projects. We prioritize awareness rather than fundraising, though. We think this is what underlies the faith in our association.”

On World Leprosy Day (last Sunday of January) AIFO sells fair and solidary products in cities across all of Italy. Products are also available for purchase on the association’s website.


How can we help AIFO?

It is possible to make donations and purchase goods on AIFO’s website, and several ways of collaborations different from volunteering are provided: being AIFO affiliated with FOCSIV it hosts youths committed with the Servizio Civile Universale, and is open to partnerships with companies and to promote educational activities in schools.

Whoever wishes to cooperate can get in touch with the closest AIFO office.

Volunteers have the chance to spend some time helping with one of the projects abroad once they have completed a formative period.

As Silvia says, everyone can become a volunteer, despite of their age: “I became a volunteer when I was young. I participated in one of the summer camps that AIFO organizes every year for children, young adults and also families. Once or twice a year the youngest volunteers meet to discuss about what they have done with their local groups and to do voluntary work in some Italian location. It is an experience I would recommend wholeheartedly; it makes you consider things you would normally never think about.”