The history of the structure that houses LabCasa Gialla sul Molo is older still than the idea that motivated its inception. Our building was given to the Congregation of Carmelite Nuns in the late 1940s, as a bequest that required it to be used for nonprofit purposes. Many in Sampieri remember the sewing and embroidering classes taught by the nuns, and the preschool activities they ran. Locals recount stories of chickens being kept in the building’s attic; the potatoes and pasta served to the needy in small aluminum bowls; the smell of onions and tomatoes that wondered over the wall that separates the building from the harbor.
Before the Nuns moved elsewhere, the children of Sampieri always found a warm light, a meeting point and a home under the building’s roof. The same happens today thanks to their generosity and the trust they have bestowed on our organization.
Every afternoon the building’s large main room, which overlooks the sea, is animated by some 40 children between the ages of 6 and 17. It’s a small, tight group, reflective of the demographics of the town: classrooms at the local school often don’t reach a capacity of more than 10 pupils. These children have experienced even harsher conditions during the pandemic than most of us, living a life suspended between fears and uncertainty; they lack safe day-to-day living spaces, rituals, relationships and in some cases even civil rights – including that to an education. More than ever, in the aftermath of the harsher pandemic months, they need to explore the world and the pages of textbooks with joy, learn together, exchange life experiences and confidences, play, confront their feelings, meeting old friends and discovering new ones.
Children do not only represent the future of a community, but its present as well. LabCasa Gialla sul Molo has partnered with other nonprofits and local educators to form a permanent council to help combat “educational dispersion” – including addressing dropout rates and learning difficulties. This initiative has been promoted by the local government of the Comune di Scicli since November 2021. Children are at the heart of our work, but they are not our only focus. Sampieri is a community of foreign-born workers as well. While the young ones are able to play and study together at our facility, we have devised evening ISL (Italian as a Second Language) programs for adults. Many of those who attend our evening classes are the parents of our core group of children. We believe that everyone should be able to take ownership over language to shape their own future.
In order to face the complexity of the ever-changing needs of the community, it is important to form a network; by joining forces, we make the path towards achieving collective goals less arduous. In this spirit, we have also partnered with the Casa delle Culture in the nearby town of Scicli. Volunteers from both our organizations man a desk at our building in Sampieri once a week, where help is provided to immigrant families who struggle to navigate complex local and national bureaucracy. We offer assistance and guidance as well as concrete support to help solve immediate problems.
Our St Martin’s Cloak project, at the same time, helps collect, sort and distribute clothing for adults and kids, to be delivered to families in need. We partner with local institutions including CARITAS, churches and other agencies to do so more efficiently.