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Interview with Stefania Temis, Councillor for Kindness of the City of Otranto

Our roundup of “scoring” interviews continues. Today we deepen the work of Stefania Temis, from early 2021 Councillor for Kindness of the City of Otranto. A lifetime of commitment as a teacher and as a clown in hospitals, she has a radio project for children on the value of kindness and then the “jump” to the institutions, making kindness concrete on the territory: an original and concrete message that we share with you.  Happy reading!

Gemena 1. Where does the idea of establishing, in Otranto, the Department of Kindness come from?

It stems from the desire to increase the spirit of community and set a good example to all citizens, starting with the smallest, through activities and actions that focus on respect for others and the things that are granted to us, implementing the sense of education and exercise, always valuable, good manners. 

site rencontre celibataire chretien 2. In your opinion, what is the “political” sense of being kind today?

I believe that “kindness”, from a political point of view, means union, collaboration, willingness to understand. In spite of the political divisions, and consequently the decision-making and steering divisions that physiologically exist within a municipal administration, being kind is by no means a given. Kindness allows us to listen to the ideas of others with a more willing and predisposed attitude, always making it possible to meet and never to clash, even when the ideas are distant or divergent in content. In essence, everything is less complicated when you are kind.  

Magenta 3. Can you give us some examples of “kindness” applied to the management of a touristic area like Salento? 

Being kind can mean a thousand things, regardless of the touristic vocation of my town. It can mean giving a smile in the morning before going to work, inside and outside your home. Practicing mutual aid and a sense of community, reaching out to others and supporting the weakest, even in the small things of daily life. From a purely touristic point of view, kindness somehow “goes beyond”: it can be practiced beyond one’s own borders, it means immense openness towards others, making an effort to make this happen, especially in a period, such as summer, which in people working in the sector, with its tight schedule, can sometimes cause nervousness and therefore apparent detachment. It means fully recognizing the importance and value of the tourist. It means, in a word: welcome. In June, on the occasion of the National Day of Purple Benches, together with the boys of the Secondary School of Otranto we have colored purple three benches of the city, on which we have written some significant phrases on kindness. It happened to me often, in these days of August, to cross tourists who not only photographed the benches, but also walked away with a happy face. Kindness is contagious, it makes you feel good. Other upcoming projects will be the book-crossing in the “kind corner” and in September the “games of kindness” dedicated to children.  

Naranjito 4. What has been the feedback from citizens after the establishment of the Department of Kindness?

Since the beginning of my department, I have always known, with a fair degree of certainty, that many of my fellow citizens consider this department as abstract and inconclusive. We know very well that this is not the case. Kindness is synonymous with welcome, inclusion and understanding. 

5. Could you tell us in three words why kindness is something to be taken seriously?

These are the three words that always come to mind. Words full of meaning, but above all of concreteness. 

WELCOME: Otranto has always been inhabited by people with different cultures and languages. We are, in a certain sense, used to openness towards the other. 

INCLUSION: it is the next step of welcoming, because this alone is sometimes not enough. 

Then there is the spirit of UNDERSTANDING, which is just as valuable, and which in my opinion is also connected to kindness from a political point of view.

These are three interlinked concepts that, if practiced constantly, can make a very valuable contribution to the benefit of the entire community. 

6. What are the main obstacles you encounter in the work of your department?

The Department of Kindness is a “no-cost, but of great symbolic value” assignment, created so that each person can feel an integral part of his community and can recognize himself within it. In short, a delegation that costs nothing but has great positive effects and the enormous advantage of being able to reach anyone. To be honest, I don’t seem to find any obstacles except for the limitation imposed by budget and time: to develop serious projects on kindness, the principle must be developed within the community and this takes time.

7. Are there any examples from other cities that you would like to “import” to Otranto? 

All the Kindness Councillors choose to join the National Network of Kindness Councillors, coordinated by Dr. Luca Nardi (www.costruiamogentilezza.org) whose goal is to create a network of councillors who contribute to the spread of the culture of kindness and who collaborate to share practices and practices aimed at improving the well-being of relationships in their communities, initiatives or choices “kind”. All the initiatives carried out in the municipalities by the Kindness Councillors are shared and re-proposed by the other Kindness Councillors in their territories, so that a virtuous circle is created. The comparison and sharing with colleagues is really exciting. 

8. Could you tell us which figure, which book and which example have most inspired your work as an Assessor of Kindness?

I would immediately answer Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose immense example, known to the whole world, needs no further comment. But it is also true that if I had to think of an example of concrete, immediate, immediate kindness, I could not help but find in my mind that manifested by my fellow citizens thirty years ago during the landing of the Albanians. They were responsible for the very first welcome, the first hugs, the human warmth, the dream of a better future. I was young and I have a clear memory of it, one of those that never fade. Finally, I would like to recommend two books that I read some time ago and that I associate with my way of seeing kindness: the first is called “Le libellule di Mariasole” by Tiziana Pedone and the second is “Il mare in base al vento” by Valentina Perrone.

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