The mission of A Chance In Life began in 1945, in the aftermath of World War II. Vast numbers of orphans and vulnerable children were left living on the streets of Italy by the war, and Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing was determined that someone should care for them. His decision to dedicate himself to their wellbeing defined the course of his life’s work and founded what would become A Chance In Life. (You can read an archival document detailing some of his extraordinary accomplishments in the 1940s and 1950s here.)
Boys’ & Girls’ Republic of Italy (La Repubblica dei Ragazzi) and Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy (La Città dei Ragazzi) were founded to provide, in Monsignor’s words, “a chance in life” to vulnerable and orphaned children. After months or years of living on their own, many of the children that Monsignor first encountered were unused or unwilling to live under the supervision of adults. This independent nature inspired a visionary approach to youth development at the Towns: give the children the responsibility of running their own Town through the model of self-government.
In the decades following our founding, our organization has navigated the many issues facing the world's youth and evolved to meet their needs. When more and more refugee and migrant youth began fleeing their home countries to seek safety and opportunity in Italy, our Towns in Italy grew to become a home for children from over 20 countries. A Chance In Life’s proven approach has evolved to Positive Youth Development (PYD) and has been shared with our Partners in nine countries, and given more than 40,000 young people the chance to grow as leaders in their own communities.
As we celebrate the legacy of the past 77 years, A Chance In Life embarks on the next phase of empowering young people through its first US-based program - The Village for New York City. With the support of our donors, we continue to invest in our family of Towns and provide new initiatives for at-risk youth, continuing Monsignor Carroll-Abbing’s legacy of striving towards a day when every child in the world has “a chance in life.”