From Convict To Craftsman: Re-Skilling Former Inmates

Bank Banca Etica
Client Messina Community Foundation
Location Messina, Italy

The Messina Community Foundation was founded to promote personal development to vulnerable adults by integrating education, welfare and craftsmanship. It is a thriving social enterprise providing training in traditional local skills, employing and reintegrating former inmates from the psychiatric prison hospital of Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto. All surpluses from its income-generating activities are re-invested in social and cultural projects that involve the local community. The Foundation has been recognised by the OECD, UNOPS and WHO as one of the most interesting local welfare and development models in the world.

‘The Messina Community Foundation is an act of love for people who have been below the threshold of economic and social poverty for years, but who still believe that, with imagination, determination and commitment, it is possible to generate change and freedom.’

The Messina Community Foundation is also symbolic because of its location in an underdeveloped part of Southern Italy, where there is a huge gap between rich and poor, and where civil society is still in the grip of organised crime and extortion. The headquarters of the Foundation are in artistic and natural sites, reclaimed from the occupation by the mafia.

With this background, the Foundation has the fight against the mafia in its blood – its partners and network of enterprises continue the daily fight against all forms of crime; starting with total transparency in their production relationships through to reporting any observation of protection rackets or extortion. The Foundation is fully independent, not reliant on the government and even generates its own electricity using solar panels.

The Foundation is involved in numerous social and environmental initiatives. One of these initiatives is located on land owned by the Ministry for Justice outside the Barcellona Pozzodi Gotto psychiatric prison hospital, where plants, flowers, fruit and vegetables are grown in order to sell via cooperative buying groups jointly promoted by the Slow Food Movement. ‘We must remember that first and foremost we eat our food with our brains and then our mouth, because everything we produce and serve must have a positive environmental and human impact,’ says one of the Foundation’s staff. The Foundation also works on numerous cultural projects for the Strait of Messina, including music festivals, literature promotion and the initiation of music to babies and children from the city.

Banca Etica is fully aligned with the values and mission of the Messina Community Foundation, which is why it has been its main financial partner since it started. Banca Etica provides everyday banking services and assists with fundraising. It also provides loans to the foundation for solar panels and to assist with their various social and cultural initiatives.