Annalise’s smile

Welcoming an immigrant teen into our family


3 min read
Elsa and Giacomo N.

We have four children: Marco (30), Michele (26), Alberto (19) and Annalise (15).

Two years ago, during a holiday period, we read an article entitled “Mothers in a different way.” The author explained how you can be fathers and mothers not only with biological children. She went on to say, “Right now, think of how many immigrant children are coming into Italy and for a certain period of time how they will need a warm bed, a bicycle, a little love.”

These words touched us both, because in our family situation two of our children out of three were already working, so we could devote time to those in need. 

We called one of our friends who is a social worker, even though it seemed strange that in our area there could be foreign children in need. Instead, she told us that there was a little girl waiting for a family! 

This was the start of a few sleepless nights, but we took courage and felt the importance of sharing this choice with our children.

We asked all three of them what they thought of the idea that we should do this kind of foster care. One after the other, all three answered yes, so we said that we were available.

Our friend assured us that we would be contacted shortly. Instead, the days passed, weeks went into months. But we were both very serene because we felt that if God was not interested in our willingness, our joy was and is to do only his will.

One day we thought of going to the sea to rest a little as a couple, detaching ourselves from both work and all our commitments. Before starting the journey back, we came up with the idea of going to visit the tomb of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano at Sassello. We entrusted her with everything we had in our hearts: from our children to all the people around us and our willingness to welcome an African child into our family.

Twelve hours later we received a phone call from another social worker who told us that the girl they had proposed 5 months earlier had to remain in the community center for a while, but there was a 13-year-old girl who had arrived and was looking for a family. We said yes, and after a short time of becoming acquainted, she arrived at our home like a tornado called Annalise.

Our life has completely changed: in addition to adding a bed and a plate, we accompany her to school, social services, medical examinations and everything that a girl needs. We also help her with nightmares, missing her family and so on. 

Of course, all five of us have had to change our habits, to give up the time and energy dedicated to ourselves in order to give time and energy to her. But all the love and affection that we have received and are receiving is a much greater reward. 

Annalise has changed our way of thinking, our priorities. It would be useless to hide the difficulties, especially the initial ones. Often the phrase came out: what made us do this? 

As she got more involved in our family life, the contrasts softened, and we began to understand each other. This allowed us to have a more serene family life. 

Sometimes, when others tell us that they admire us, that we are so good to welcome another person into our home just when we could have more time to ourselves, we always say that it is us who have been enriched.

There couldn’t be a more beautiful gift than seeing Annalise’s smile.

First published on

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