Most children who drop out of school look for a job to help their parents. But some children just stay at home, or hang out on the street. And in this neighborhood lurks the danger, says Punzo. Ponticelli is notorious for having several mafia clans active. The neighborhood is regularly in the news after a shooting, an explosion or a raid by the police.
“Because there is so little work here, young people run the risk of being recruited by criminal organizations. If they do not have a diploma, or are not trained, that risk is even greater.”
Positive role models
Non-profit organization Maestri di Stradan therefore tries to keep vulnerable young people off the streets with all kinds of workshops. “The most important thing is that they feel that they have allies here,” says Nicola Laieta, who supervises a theater workshop.
“The children who come here often have problems with their parents. Because they have no money, are absent, or have become involved in crime themselves. Their parents are not the bosses of the clans, but the soldiers. Many fathers are in jail for stupidity.”
To prevent their children from going down that same path, Laieta says it’s especially important that they have good role models. “Many young people who come here want to become a psychologist or counselor later on, because they come into contact with it. For young people without positive role models, the only thing that stands out is crime.”
15-year-old Antonio also attends Laieta’s theater workshop. In the play they are rehearsing, he got a leading role. “It makes me emotional when I think about it,” he says. “I never thought I could do that before.”