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San Patrignano: Hairdressing As Rehab

April 13th 2017

In the hills of Coriano, in the province of Rimini in Italy, lies San Patrignano, a community that helps addicts via a process of education and rehabilitation. For a period of four years, the 1,300 people who pass through San Patrignano for a free detox, follow a program that aims to restore self-confidence before they undertake training in a professional career. Artisan chocolate making, farming and hairdressing are among the trades taught. FAB took a look at their future professional hairdressers.

Photo credits: Claudio Ciprian

Step-by-step Detox

12.30pm. With the sound of three claps, absolute silence descends on the refectory, which must serve lunch to the 1,350 people sitting down. This moment of meditation is one of the many rules that those who have expressed the wish to spend four years of their life in the community of San Patrignano are happy to abide by. Italians, Belgians, French, Australians, Canadians – they come from the local area and elsewhere and are all here for the same reason: to detox. To do away with their addiction once and for all (drugs, alcohol, gambling, schizophrenia, eating disorder, etc.) and be reborn.

In the 1970s, drug use became an epidemic in Italy, especially where the mafia was established. In 1975, Vincenzo Muccioli, a man who was tired of seeing dealers and syringes strewn in the streets of his town of Coriano, decided to help these young drug addicts he saw wandering around outside. Muccioli was then an animal breeder and the road leading to his farm was called San Patrignano; it would later give its name to what was to become the most important detox center in Europe, with its world-famous methods.

Photo credits: San Patrignano

At the time, there was only one detox center in Rome, which ‘treated’ heroin addicts with methadone. Vincenzo Muccioli opted for a gentle therapeutic method, based on a program that relies on education and rehabilitation for an average of four years. In the first two years, residents are monitored by physiotherapists and psychiatrists, if necessary, and can practice one of the many activities that the community offers (sporting, artistic, cultural). Self-confidence, sharing and gratitude are values that are discovered little by little in San Patrignano. During the second stage, residents receive vocational training. Recovering self-esteem and maintaining relationships are the keys to completing reintegration into society. Bakery, construction, butchery, carpentry, communication, dairy farming, dentistry, electrician, farming, working at the kennel, on the farm or becoming a hairdresser… residents can choose from the 50 professional courses on offer.

Photo credits: San Patrignano

From Piazza Dei Mestieri To San Patrignano

In Italy, as in other countries, L’Oréal is involved in many social responsibility initiatives. For 15 years, the “L’Oréal Italy for women in science” award, in partnership with UNESCO, has helped women gain access to the scientific careers. With Beauty For A Better Life, L’Oréal gives women from disadvantaged communities access to the world of work by teaching them careers in beauty. Since 2002, L’Oréal has also been a partner of Piazza dei Mestieri, a Turin-based school that helps young people coming from underprivileged backgrounds and with school drop-out experiences by offering them professional and vocational training (hairdressing, cooking, restaurant and bar tendering, bakery and pastry, graphics and multimedia).

L’Oréal has been supporting the San Patrignano community for three years now. Firstly, with the Make Up Tutorial – residents who wish to do so can take make-up classes to regain their self-esteem. “Often, young residents come from the street and want to change their appearance, be proud of being part of society and thus regain their self-esteem,” says Filippo De Caterina, corporate communications director for L’Oréal Italia. Four hundred young women have benefited from these private lessons since they began.

Photo credits: Claudio Ciprian
Photo credits: Claudio Ciprian

The following year, in this huge community, the hairdressing salon Sanpa Hair was inaugurated, thanks to L’Oréal. This space – an old salon entirely remade according to the model of a Salon Emotion – works like an academy so that students can learn the hairdressing trade. The best trainers come from the Rimini area to teach techniques and convey the passion of this work. Some learn, others come to get their hair done for free. Every year, more than 3,000 haircuts are performed at Sanpa Hair in San Partrignano. Once the course has finished, L’Oréal Italia opens up its network of trade fair facilities across the country to these young graduates to help them get into the industry. The cherry on the cake: as of next September, Sanpa Hair will be able to offer three-year courses that this time lead to a government-recognized diploma, not only allowing the holder to become a hairdresser, but also to open his or her own salon and to become a manager.

Since 1975, San Patrignano has become a true model imitated by many countries around the world. To answer the question “What do you hope for in the future?”, Andrea Gremoli, one the San Patrignano’s supervisor jokes, “Why not create a franchised San Patrignano hairdresser chain?”