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At the Milan-Bollate penitentiary, a joinery and cabinet-making workshop enables inmates to prepare for new lives and jobs. Run by the e.s.t.i.a. social cooperative, the scheme provides hands-on skills training through the crafting fine wooden objects.
VivaWood toys are designed by graduates of Milan’s prestigious Politecnico design school. Remarkably, they are made at a workshop in the Milan-Bollate penitentiary, where inmates also create furniture, theatrical scenery, temporary structures for trade fairs, and window frames. Organised by the e.s.t.i.a. social collective, the workshop helps detainees to prepare proactively for new lives outside prison, learning artisan skills and qualifying as professional joiners.
Detainees follow a demanding training programme before entering the workshop under the supervision of expert artisans, where they acquire the skills needed to make fine wooden objects – VivaWood toys, and other high quality, eco-friendly items using natural materials and non-toxic varnishes. The scheme works with a number of specialist partner organisations, and the support of the Italian justice ministry, providing inmates with new skills, work experience and opportunities. The participants, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, discover a new sense of individual and team responsibility, enhanced self-esteem, and confidence in their potential to build new lives and careers.
The project was selected for support by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès as part of the H3 programme: Head – heart – hand.