THE ITALIAN CONNECTION: The Burberry Foundation, an independent charity, is handing a three million pounds grant to Oxfam to help struggling communities in the Italian region of Tuscany, once a thriving hub of luxury leather and clothing manufacturing.

The foundation grant has been earmarked to support “community cohesion” and help struggling families in the region which is facing increasing levels of poverty, youth unemployment and economic migration as traditional manufacturing dwindles.

Burberry said the project in Tuscany is also in line with its own responsibility agenda to support one million people in the communities that sustain the wider luxury industry.

The foundation and Oxfam will work toward improving integration between the Italian and migrant communities around Florence. The program will run until 2022 and will develop new and existing community centers that offer help, employment support, educational activities and Italian language classes.

Leanne Wood, a trustee of the Burberry Foundation and chief people and corporate affairs officer at Burberry, said: “Oxfam’s work in the region of Tuscany is vital in bringing local communities together to build a bright and prosperous future.”

The high school dropout rate in the Florence area, particularly among the Italian population, is high, with 11 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds not completing their formal education. The new grant will allow Oxfam to launch in-school workshops and mentoring programs to improve skills development, enhance employability and equip parents, teachers and educators to support young people who have difficulties at school.

Roberto Barbieri, executive director of Oxfam Italia, said: “Poverty and social exclusion are huge problems in Italy, with one in four people at risk. One person in 13 lives in absolute poverty. This means they do not have enough food, heating or proper clothes. We are talking about 4.74 million people, and the young are particularly badly affected.”

He said that in the Florence region, one young person in three between the ages of 15 and 24 does not have a job. “Lack of access to community services including health care, education and training are common.”

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