When solidarity meets rebirth: Lecce’s prison community donates 5000 masks
In support of the fight against Covid-19, the non-profit organisation “Made in Carcere”, in the person of its founder Luciana Delle Donne, has launched a project which started in Lecce’s prison – thanks to the collaboration of its director Rita Russo – and has now involved Trani’s and Matera’s (and soon Taranto’s and Potenza’s) prisons and Lequile’s mayor Vincenzo Carlà. This has created a human chain of solidarity to assist people needing immediate protection. As part of a complex process of production, jailed women have also tirelessly sewn innovative and ecological filter holding masks for the inmates.

The new project by Made in Carcere* (a non-profit social cooperative) focuses on creating protective masks designed to prevent the spreading of the Coronavirus to donate to the brackets of population more at risk from the contagion, devising new distribution channels and products in response to the new habits we have adopted to defend ourselves from the pandemic. This organisation involves women in jail and in situations of social fragility in manufacturing handmade products like bags and accessories, an educational process aiming at progressively reintegrating them into the work force and civil society. Everything they make is characterised by sustainability: in line with what the organisation wants to achieve for female inmates, the textiles used for this operation are also being given ‘a second chance’, as they come from Italian companies participating in the project Textile Bank – established between the non-profit Made in Carcere and the association Mare di Moda – gathering about 150 fabric producers happy to see their products come back to life to contribute to an eco-sustainable initiative. A thread that acquires an ethical meaning of rebirth, symbolically joining producer and product.

The ethical organisation has this time gone a step forward, contextualising its work in the global crisis. How can we make ourselves useful throughout such a socio-health crisis? Luciana Delle Donne, founder of the non-profit Made in Carcere, and her team have decided to invest the time spent in isolation working on a new initiative: the creation and subsequent donation of 5.000 masks to members of the prison community and citizens of the city of Lequile, which for years has been accommodating the association. “After dealing with the first phase of the emergency, – Luciana explained – we saw the opportunity to contribute with a new line of products, also thanks to the immediate support of the directors of Lecce’s and Trani’s prisons Rita Russo and Giuseppe Altomare. Organising the training and the production process wasn’t an easy task, and we communicate almost every day through video calls. The sewing machines in Lecce’s and Trani’s prisons, operated by about 15 women, are working on quality fabrics to create protective devices that can be washed and reused. Soon, Matera’s and Taranto’s institutes will too be involved in the project”. They are washable reusable masks provided with a TNT filter that can be replaced. The attention to sustainability is crucial in this period of emergency in which sanitary issues are forcing us to make more and more use of disposable items.

What are the key features of the masks? In Luciana’s words, they are “beautiful, innovative and ecological”. To make the kits for both adults and children, “we have in fact used colourful and cheerful patterns to brighten up our quarantine, to protect us and invite us to reflect on the need for more respect for the others and for the environment”. The work is relentless and in constant evolution: after a first phase of hectic industriousness, we are proceeding along three paths.
The first is the acquisition of the relevant certifications (in collaboration with Bari’s Polytechnic and the National Group for the Covid Emergency, Confindustria Moda/Federmoda) for medical products, for both masks and white coats to be donated starting from who needs them more (i.e. hospitals). The second concern is the continuous production of filter masks to freely distribute in prisons and to the more fragile sectors of civil society. The third line of work focuses on strengthening our digital distribution channels, so as to be able to meet the request – growing at an astounding rate – in the minimum time possible.

With Made in Carcere – Luciana added – we have the opportunity to support a valuable project and at the same time in all safety provide Italian families with what is now an essential item”. Their masks are available from the Mukako website and you’ll soon be able to buy them also from Gioosto, 2nd chance and Made in Carcere’s online store. The work doesn’t end here though: “We are restructuring our operations – she also mentioned to us – in order to increase our production volume, involving other units like neighbourhoods’ tailoring shops, already our partners, and other small organisations, in collaboration with the city of Lequile”.

The non-profit association has a clear idea about its future and has already defined its lines of development post Covid-19 initial crisis: “The production won’t be limited to masks, we are looking at introducing a series of innovative products aiming at transforming this dark historic period into a meaningful experience to recount, focusing on aesthetics, social inclusion and the safeguard of the environment. We’ll do it using salvaged fabrics and materials to bring back to life and make last, because it’s more and more necessary to activate models of regenerative economy. In this case – Luciana concluded – the winning idea is the project and not the product in itself. We can and must generate wellbeing not only in pursuit of profits, but in order to preserve the human asset, which is our biggest wealth”. Anybody – and not only members of the association – can contribute to the cause: to support Made in Carcere and all its projects you can make a donation (IBAN: IT20J0335901600100000074077) or devolve your 5per1000 (P.IVA 03992810758), because, as Luciana reminded us, “Love is not enough to do what we do”.

*“Who buys from Made in Carcere – the coordinator of the Rebirth/Third Paradise ambassadors/dresses has emphasised – supports a re-educational project good for the environment. While in Apulia for the opening of one of his personal exhibitions, Michelangelo Pistoletto visited the Borgo San Nicola prison in Lecce and met some of the detained seamstresses. On that occasion, he talked to them about his universal concept of the Third Paradise, drawing a commemorative sign on the wall of their workshop”.