The poor are brothers and sisters, friends of the Community. Companionship with whomever is in need – elderly, homeless, migrants, disabled, street children, minors in the peripheries, prisoners – is the distinctive trait of the lives of whom is part of Sant’Egidio, in the different continents.
The first students that in 1968 met around the Word of God felt that the Gospel was calling them to be close to the poor. That’s how the “Popular School” was born, a free afterschool programme for children in the squatters of Rome. A dream was born: changing the lives of the last in society by offering them, with the word, the presence and didactic support, a profound affection and a second chance at life.
Since then, this friendship has stretched out to other poor people: children in institutes, lonely and sick elderly, physical and mental people with disabilities, people living in the streets, the terminally-ill, prisoners, gypsies, migrants, lepers and people with AIDS. Throughout the years the Community has developed a way to be sensible to all forms of poverty, whether old or new and emerging.
Sant’Egidio identifies itself with all these people who are, without exclusions, part of the Community. The service with the poor is rooted in gratuity and voluntary work. No Community, not even the youngest or the poorest, is too poor or has too many difficulties to be able to help the poor that it meets.
In this friendship with the poorest "it becomes unclear who helps and who is being helped. Who leads the action? Both of them, or, to say it better, the embrace leads” as Pope Francis told us during his visit to the Community on 15th June 2014.