Welcome to the InGalera restaurant
“I was able to tempt them all” and we overcame barriers.
Silvia Polleri, a.k.a. ‘Nonna Galeotta’ (Inmate Granny), is a visionary woman who devised InGalera, a restaurant within the Bollate prison. With a background in catering and social work, she set up a project to give a second chance to those who have done wrong. “I am proud to have been able to give hope to 60 prisoners over the years,” she says.
The first in Italy to set up such an ambitious project, InGalera is today considered a role model for projects abroad. And data proves her right: re-offending in Bollate, an exemplary facility in Italy, is 17% compared to 70% in the rest of the country.
“Welcome to InGalera”. You will find yourself having lunch (or dinner) at a well-set table, in a well-kept restaurant. The inmates who run the restaurant would like to get out, whilst you have booked to come in.
So, given the irony of the paradox, Silvia tells the story of her adventure which started based on a prerequisite and the certainty that it could happen.
But what does it mean in reality? Doing everything by the book, for sure, and of course ensuring respect for all. It must be a business, there must be customers, it must be a real restaurant. It is on the inside, not outside. She lists the beliefs that are important to her, which look like obstacles overcome with great pride and determination, which led her (not on her own, mind you… but in partnership with the Bollate Prison and many others) to succeed with a project that at first might have seemed utopian.
For those who work in the restaurant it represents a taste of the outside world. Everyone is there. The aim is to create a situation whereby a person who has done wrong according to the law can confront his/her mistake, understand it, process it and correct it. And then… go back. That’s what we must think about: going back out there. But not to the old ways. Going back having learnt how not to repeat a mistake.
Listening to her story, a recurring word comes up; a word that when thinking about diversity always occurs and is often a mirage (because of quality, form, or substance): Future.
Silvia gives inmates the opportunity to put into practice their personhood. By offering them opportunities, trust and by showing them that mistakes can become a distant past. We live in the present and it is possible to build a future.
Her strength and her message are powerful, and even travel around the globe. Delegations visit her from the world over, from France to South America, so they can export her idea of a Future. And Silvia, with generosity and great irony, tells them her story. Meanwhile, you eat and come to terms with prejudices you didn’t even know you held. You leave them on the outside and forget about them. And on the way out… after an excellent meal… you no longer need them.
WEMBRACE THE WORLD
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A special award for a story that embodies an inspiring example related to diversity. On an international level.