Lay Centre staff prepare meals, foster friendship

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Sandro Baiani e Laura Tabarretti
Sandro Baiani e Laura Tabarretti

ROME — Community, fellowship and unity happen at table at The Lay Centre and there are two people who make this possible everyday: Laura Tabarretti, and Sandro Baiani.

They are the “angels” of The Lay Centre’s kitchen and do much more than just prepare meals for the resident community and guests. They create a welcoming space, thus supporting The Lay Centre mission.

Laura prepares lunch and Sandro prepares dinner.

Laura has been part of The Lay Centre family for the past seven years. She began after her second child was born and she knows how preparing food shows care for the other.

“We obviously consider everyone’s needs, allergies and intolerances,” she said.

But she also values the bonds of friendship that are forged day after day. “Students may come to (me) for advice or just to have a chat. Sometimes, even if they don’t have to, they help me wash the dishes. It is a time to enjoy each other’s company, laugh and also learn Italian for those who still don’t know it very well, since I don’t speak English.”

Homemade dessert is served each Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon.

“Everyone waits for that moment, and students even bet about what they will find at table. Some of them are able to tell whether it was Sandro or me who prepared it,” she said with a smile.

Sandro joined The Lay Centre six years ago. Not long after he began, he was diagnosed with a gastric tumour.

“I was lucky, and now it is five years that I have recovered,” he said. “At that time, The Lay Centre proved really to be a family. My colleagues asked if they could come to pay a visit after the surgery and they planned a surprise for me: all the students came to see how I was doing.”

“I have always been very shy but, after my illness, I felt I started a new life and I talk, joke and laugh with everyone,” said Sandro, whose nickname among the students is “Captain” since he wore a bandage over one eye for some time.

“Even when the students leave, relationships don’t come to an end,” he said. “There are some people with whom I am still in touch and exchange messages.”

Sandro said he treasures the memories of preparing international dishes for The Lay Centre community and guests.

“I always have to study to prepare them. Once (the students) called me (out of the kitchen) and applauded me. A student told me that it was even better than his mother’s cooking,” he said. “When people applaud, I know they enjoyed the meal and it is the best I can ask for.”

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