Elvis was the first to be operated. Born with heart disease, Elvis had scarce hopes for survival in his own country – Zimbabwe. In 2005, 8 years old, he made the trip to Italy full of hope: destination Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna. A team of specialized surgeons was waiting for him at the pediatric unit of cardiology. The operation was successful and Elvis was saved. After a few weeks rest in hospital, he returned to Zimbabwe.
Nine years later, in June 2014, the photographer Giovanni Diffidenti left for Zimbabwe: his aim was to meet Elvis, now 17, and other children like him born with heart disease and saved/rescued due to the intervention of the cardiology unit in Italy. To meet them, Diffidenti traveled north from Harare, and later towards the south.
There’s Diana, who poses in her school uniform in front of the school. Christopher in front of a car, posing as a rapper. Evidence, staying with a friend of her father’s because her own village is 40 km away. Ruth, hugging a teddy bear. Salvador, having fun doing cartwheels on the grass with a friend.
Many of these children need regular medical check-ups and follow-ups or further operations. Zimbabwe is certainly not an “easy” Country: an ex colony of Great Britain, with an economic and social development marked by the ill-fated consequences of the Mugabe regime. Life expectancy is one of the lowest in the world (51 years of age).
But even though the conditions of life are hard, the sixteen images by Diffidenti transmit a serenity that shows in the facial expressions and smiles. These children were once quite sick before their operation, without energy and destined to slowly die. Now they live a normal childhood and adolescence. Happy to have their photograph taken, revealing something personal of their character, tastes and sometimes their dreams.
From 2005 up until today, the “Save the Children’s Heart” program of the “Mission Bambini” Foundation (www.missionbambini.org) has rescued more than one thousand children with heart disease from poor countries. This objective has been attained thanks to the interventions carried out in Italy, as well as the work of voluntary Italian doctors organized abroad and equipment and machinery donated to local hospitals. In Zimbabwe the Foundation collaborates with the “Luisa Guidotti” Hospital situated in Mutoko (200km east of the capital Harare) led by the Italian doctor Maria Elena Pesaresi, a non-religious missionary in Africa.