Libera: The Mafia and Palermo


While in Palermo on the Italian island of Sicily (at the toe of the boot), my classmates and I worked with a church that runs a lot of after-school/summer programs for the local community. The church provides neighborhood kids a place to spend their free time because it is a better option than the alternative. Palermo has an active mafia presence, and a lot of the kids get stuck in this particular lifestyle because it is all they know.

What community need did I learn about?:

Sicily has a long history with the mafia, which is essentially a criminal gang that conducts illegal activities, sometimes with the help of corrupt police officers, government officials and business people. They often use threats and violence to get what they want. About 10 years ago, concerned citizens banded together in an attempt to end the mafia's influence on the island. Shop owners refused to pay pizzos, or bribes to the mafia, and there were open demonstrations that demanded an end to the corruption and violence. 

Why does the community have this need?:

The mafia has been a part of Sicilian culture for a very long time. For many generations, the people who lived on the island accepted the idea that there was little they could do about the problem. The children of Siciliy grew up in this environment and didn't know any other way to live.