In the past decades, poverty levels in Italy have increased dramatically. In 2005, absolute poverty concerned about 3% of the population, 8.4% in 2018 and 9.4%, or 5.6 million people, in 2020, also worsened by the pandemic. Italy has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe: about 2.2 million youth in Italy between the ages of 15 and 29 are unemployed and neither studying nor in training (NEET), representing nearly 25% of youths compared to an average of 14.2% in the rest of Europe. The south of Italy, in particular, is the worst off in socioeconomic indicators, with 21.1% of families living in absolute poverty. Sadly, nationwide, the most affected age group by poverty are children: 13.5% of minors live in absolute poverty as of 2020.
In 2019, the Foundation partnered with Mission Bambini to contrast school drop-out rates and provide educational support to disadvantaged children at the Talita Kum Educational Center in Librino, the most degraded neighbourhood of Catania, Sicily. The neighbourhood has the highest juvenile crime rate in the city as children grow up in conditions of severe marginalisation. The objective of the center is to offer extracurricular activities to at-risk children and youth, run by professional educators and reference figures, to foster the healthy physical, mental and emotional development of the child. Through the dedicated work of over 25 educators, tutors and volunteers, the project targets 100 children from the ages of 6 to 17 and in collaboration with families, teachers, schools, and a network of non profit organisations in the area, seeks to foster civic values and real opportunities for educating and protecting children. The Center also assists families and mothers of beneficiaries by providing counselling on nutrition, education, and mental/physical well being. All the children come from extremely poor family backgrounds and over 90% have a parent who is in prison or absent. The staff interacts with school teachers, social services and families to oversee the academic and developmental progress of every child.
The activities offered at the center include the following: school tutoring; waste recycling workshops; IT skills lessons; board games to develop social skills; group games involving movement and play to improve motor skills, body awareness, interpersonal relations, and vehicle aggression; storytelling; English lessons; sculpture and art classes. Children also participate in cultural visits to sites of historical and cultural interest in the neighbourhood, to develop appreciation and care for one’s local environment.
During the COVID pandemic and the lockdown restrictions, the Center activated its networks to provide families with food supplies and prime necessities. The Foundation supplied digital devices to children to support distance learning so that educators were able to stay in touch them and monitor their progress throughout the pandemic and periods of lockdown.