BY: Michael J Cross
The Italian Community of St Louis (Comunitá degli Italiani - St Louis) held a fundraiser on Saturday, March 31st for Ngone Seck, an Italian immigrant with West African roots. Ngone, who recently began her engineering classes at Washington University in St Louis, had accrued a massive amount of medical debt which caused her to get a full time job at a low paying fast food restaurant.
There she often works 60 hours per week so she can pay off the debt. This has obviously taken a severe toll on her academics and she often has to miss classes in order to work. Moreover, Ngone does not qualify for government-funded health care because she is an Italian citizen and not a US citizen.
Ngone is in pain every day. St Louis Public Radio recently interviewed her concerning her situation and medical complications. Below is an excerpt from that interview:
"Just before Seck’s family left Italy for St. Louis when she was 12, a dentist found a single cavity. It was never filled. As her family began their new life in the United States, her parents had no money for dental care, she said. Seck doesn’t qualify for government-funded dental care because she’s an Italian citizen. Years of inattention — no checkups, no cleanings — took their toll. Through middle and high school, the pain increased until she could only eat soft foods. Last spring, Seck finally found a dentist herself and paid for the visit. 'He said that ever since he started as a dentist, my teeth were in the worst condition he’s ever seen and I was losing bone mass because of infections caused by my cavities. Almost every tooth was decayed.'"
When the Italian Community of St Louis heard about Ngone's situation, a committee was established on how to best assist her. Seeing that Ngone needed two root canals, two implants and more than a dozen fillings which cost around $13,000, the Comunitá decided to hold a fundraiser. As the only official non-profit organization in St Louis dedicated to assisting Italian citizens in the St Louis metropolitan area, the Comunitá along with the St Louis - Bologna Sister Cities Organization and Club Italiano Per Piacere, decided to step forward to assist Ngone.
A reception was held at the Central West End home of Dr Michele Boldrin, former chairman of the Department of Economics at Washington University. $1,700.00 were raised from the grassroots fundraiser and a dentist from the community (who requested anonymity) came forward to provide Ngone with free services.
In my role as president of the Italian Community of St Louis, I see it as my duty and honor to provide support to all Italian citizens in our region, especially to those in need. It is beautiful to see us coming together as a family to help each other. Of course, we cannot do it without the generosity of individuals among us.
Special thanks go to the Italian professors, postdocs, researchers, and students at Washington University who helped organize the event, especially:
Dr. Michele Boldrin, Distinguished Professor in Economics
Dr. Gaetano Antinolfi, Chairman of the Department of Ecomomics
Dr. Vincenza Cifarelli, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Dr. Elena Dalla Torre, Professor of Italian
Dr. Valerio Dotti, Postdoctoral Fellow in Economics
Dr Chiara Ghetti, Obstetrician-gynecologist at WashU Medical
Special thanks also go to the following individuals who donated and assisted with this cause:
Luciana Borbely, Assistant Director of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation
Cav Franco Giannotti, President Emeritus of Italiano Per Piacere
Carina Marino, Publisher of Il Pensiero Newspaper
Anthony Lancia, Vice-President of Labor Relations, AGC of Missouri
Dr. Riccardo DiCecio, Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis
Hon. Giuseppe Colagiovanni, Vice Consul of Italy in St Louis
Marlene Marcella, Marketing Director, Link Auction Galleries
Lastly, thanks to the following people for attending the fundraiser, welcoming Ngone into our community, and giving to this cause: Gabriele Barni, Dario Castagna, Rossana Bonfanti, Federica Bertolini, Karyn Schultz, Nick Phillips, Dan Boccabella, Luisa Gabbiani, Deniz Meral, and Ligia Gante.
Many people could learn from Ngone's courage through her difficult time. This quote from Ngone, sums up her determination:
“I could have simply just said, ‘I can't do school; I have to pay for my medical expenses; I have to help my family. But I know this is only temporary. At the end of the day, all of our obstacles are temporary, no matter how big, no matter how small.”
The Comunitá is proud to have helped empower Ngone and to provide a home away from home for her.
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