Service Learning with Impact

Libera Terra’s leaders can often be found in Accent Florence and Rome classrooms presenting the organization’s work to students. Libera is a network of associations who operate across Italy, redeveloping confiscated lands to give employment to those most in need. Goods are harvested on the land and then packaged and distributed in a way that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Proceeds are used to fund anti-mafia and anti-corruption initiatives, spread a culture of legality, and support communities impacted by le mafie.

Together with professor Chiara Lucarelli, Accent has identified a new opportunity for students to work on-site with these associations beside other volunteers as part of Libera’s international education and advocacy initiative.

Each summer the NGO hosts a series of weeklong workshops for university students in sites across Campania, Calabria, and Sicily. The project aims to increase awareness of the impact of organized crime – in Italy and far beyond – on the economy, environment, and immigration. Through education and service, Libera demonstrates that communities can stand up to the mafia.

Participants are placed on developed Libera sites and housed in the confiscated properties. Each afternoon they work side-by-side with the organizers and volunteers at the site to maintain the property and contribute to agricultural, maintenance, and social projects, while mornings are spent meeting with community leaders and activists to learn about the unique challenges of the region and site.

Earlier this year, Accent had the opportunity to visit a Libera workshop site in the Caserta province outside of Naples. The Cento Moggia farm was originally used by the Nuvoletta crime family as an arms and drug trafficking depot. Once confiscated, the property was transferred to Libera and APEIRON, a non-profit that uses the space to provide housing, services, and job training to asylum seekers and the mentally ill.

Students at Cento Moggia work in the vineyard and greenhouses along with the local employees and volunteers who run APEIRON and the refugees staying on the site. Morning workshops are led by local and national Libera representatives, as well as community activists, addressing the impact of organized crime in Campania and highlighting the exploitation of economic migrants and refugees for agricultural and sex work.

Together with Libera, Accent looks forward to offering this rich and challenging service learning opportunity to students at our US partner universities.