The history of Marcello, a man saved by school prison who became a pastry chef for kids in need

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This 45-year-old Sicilian man from Palermo involves disadvantaged and disabled young people in the creation of typical Sicilian pastries to be sold at theatres. He works with the association Dol­ce Buo­na­spi­na, inspired by the name of the juvenile prison of Palermo where he found a second chance after a tough childhood. “Our dream? A shop for our own”

He was only 11 years old when, in the alleys of the neighborhood Ballarò (Palermo), he discovered the awful side of illegality, together with drug and crime. Through this painful experience in prison, however, Marcello Patricola, 45-year-old, found the motivation to build a future that smells like cinnamon and orange. A scent of life that makes him the protagonist of the activities realized in collaboration with the association “Dol­ce Buo­na­spi­na”, founded in memory of the juvenile prison Malaspina in Palermo. His hope is that alternative measures to penalty can increase, especially for young people.

Together with his chef hat and a smile showing a long process of social rescue, Marcello and the association deal with the production of typical Sicilian pastries, like cinnamon cookies and orange brioches, to be sold at theatres. While in prison, he cultivated his passion for confectionery: “The school they promoted there saved my life. Nowadays, prison is more rehabilitative than many years ago. I was lucky to had attended a catering institute and learnt a job that made me start again”.

THE OTHER SIDE OF SUBURBS. Son of two parents with disabilities, Marcello has known wrong models of life since his childhood. This took him to hard drug addiction, until he was reported by the Juvenile Court and entered the recovery community of San Patrignano. “After a process of rehab ‒ he explained ‒ I overcame my problem of addiction, but not the ‘charm of suburbs’. Those scooters and lights are like swings for guys who grow up in those places. If there were more interventions of urban regeneration, aggregation centers and contamination of good models, maybe more young people would move in a different life direction. I didn’t choose to steal, that model was just the only one I knew”.

EDUCATION AS SOCIAL RESCUE. He studied the Divine Comedy and The Betrothed several times, but he doesn’t matter if he kept down a few years. School and especially teachers have been the best life partners with which he has ever discussed about social issues. “When the bell rang, I was the first one to come in and the last one to go out. Unlike prison, where you must play the role of the tough guy, school sets you free. You can build your own models, talk about values and feed your critical thinking. I will never stop saying that every young person living in prison should have the chance to study”.

FROM PRISON TO INCLUSION. In addition to legality and social rescue, the association is promoting social inclusion involving both ex-prisoners and disabled people. “Dolce Buonaspina” works with AIAS (Italian Association for Assistance to Disabled People) in a bakery workshop led by Marcello, who is increasingly involving disabled people in making pastries. “I get a lot from them and this pushes me to carry on my battle, which consists of giving hope and good models to less fortunate young people. Furthermore, in recent years I have entrusted some kids from foster houses, who could learn that in life you always have a choice through bakery lessons”.

The association doesn’t have a shop in its own, but it is self-financing by offering its specialties here and there. However, they dream to start a business involving ex-prisoners and disabled people. “I would like to open a bakery or a mini market, where I can see the smile of a disabled child or cross the gaze of someone who made it. I trust in the generosity of people appreciating us, and I hope to fulfill my dream sooner or later”.

Translated by Daniela Marsala

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