ROME, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The northeastern Italian city of Padua in Veneto region officially marked its status of European Capital of Volunteering 2020 with a ceremony held on Friday.
The yearlong program would see several initiatives with a focus on seven core areas, including health and well-being, technology and innovation, and environment and urban planning, according to the local organizing committee.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, addressing some 5,000 volunteers from all over Italy at the opening event, stressed that "volunteering is the indispensable energy for our society."
"Italy is rich in terms of solidarity, and the same goes for Veneto (region). Volunteering has ancient and deep roots in our country," he said. "Padua represents its cutting edge, having had some of the most relevant witnesses of the Italian volunteering world," he added.
Following Denmark's Aarhus in 2018 and Slovakia's Kosice in 2019, Padua has chosen the theme "Mending Italy" to mark its status and to inspire all initiatives running throughout the year.
The initiatives will be open to the voluntary participation of civic associations from all over Italy and Europe, local authorities, private citizens, and private firms as well if interested.
Panels and thematic conferences on how to further develop the sector will also take place throughout the year, according to organizers.
Regional Governor Luca Zaia and Padua Mayor Sergio Giordani both hailed the extensive network of volunteers in the area.
"Not by chance has Padua been chosen as European Capital of Volunteering ... Veneto counts some 2,500 volunteering organizations, and about 1,500 of them working in social services," the governor said.
"Such activities involve at least one person out of five in the region, meaning some 900,000 people offering their leisure time to help the community every day," he continued.
Giordani added that Padua province counts 6,466 volunteering groups operating in Italy and developing countries, with some of the oldest starting their activities over 70 years ago.
"This ceremony," said Giordani," is a reward to the commitment and the attitude of an entire community."
Promoters and partners of the initiative include the municipality of Padua, local volunteer group Center Volunteer Services(CSV), and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Union.
The whole project has been run since 2013 by Brussels-based European Volunteer Center (CEV), which bestows the title to a city noteworthy for its traditions in this sector after a specific contest every year.