On September 11, 2008 I spent six hours touring and learning about the San Patrignano drug rehabilitation community located in Rimini, Itlay.  I spent the week before in Lausanne, Switzerland providing training on conflict management for women from over 50 different countries who primarily work for their country’s Olympic Committees.  My friend Marina Canatacuzino, a journalist who created The Forgiveness Project, suggested I visit San Patrignano, which is relatively close to Switzerland.

San Patrignano is considered one of the world’s finest drug rehabilitation programs, and after visiting it I can easily understand why.  I believe San Patrignano is a model for building peace and is an example of an effective restorative justice and solution-focused response to conflict and dealing with serious social problems.

Addiction creates conflicts and San Patrignano deals with it restoratively and in a strength based manner.  It is an incredible place that is deeply inspirational.  San Patrignano teaches us that we can find positive solutions to our most difficult problems by looking to the strengths that we all have.

San Patrignano is a remarkably beautiful place that is completely free for all of its approximately 800 hundred residents. It takes no government money for support.  It is 50% to 60% self-sufficient and gets the remainder of its support from donors who believe in its social mission.

San Patrignano’s main strategy for helping people overcome addiction is simply taking responsibility, which is exactly what restorative justice is all about.

Myself, and two Norwegian women who work with people who have substance abuse problems in Norway’s prison system, spent the day with our tour guide Darko who has been a San Patrignano resident for almost four years (Darko granted his permission to discuss him, the program, and share photos that we were freely allowed to take of anyone or anything at San Patrignano during our visit).

Darko is from Croatia and had developed a serious drug problem while living in South Africa where he also happen to become friends with Nelson Mandela who bought suits from the store where he worked.  Darko heard about San Patrignano’s program and was selected to enter it not speaking any Italian which he became fluent in about 18 months after being there.

San Patrignano is in the country located on rolling hills of vineyards.  It operates on about 25 million Euro a year.  The facility generates 50 to 60% of its support from selling its products including award winning wines (it has a fabulous winery); dairy; fabric; and state of art graphic and advertising services. No fees are sought from any residents.

At San Patrignano everyone works and they put 100% into doing a high quality job in whatever they do.  The result is a community of people with great self-efficacy and confidence.  Psychologist Albert Bandura would love it!

The people at San Patrignano are happy, cooperative, show great respect, love and affection toward each other;  they have “much aloha” as we would say here in Hawai‘i.

There are 55 different areas of employment for residents including furniture building, frame making, web-design, wine making, cheese making, and animal care.

San Patrignano has a hospital that takes patients from all over the world that no one else wants.  People who are completely dependent on care.  Many of whom suffer from HIV and other contagious diseases.  There is also an animal shelter where abandoned dogs are cared for and trained to be therapy and service pets.  Residents work in the facilities and learn the joy in helping others.

There is are lovely elementary and secondary schools, playgrounds and excellent athletic facilities for residents.  The 2005 European horse show was held at its superb in door and out door arenas.

San Patrignano is wonderful.  Everyone interested in making the world a better place should go visit it to experience the results of people believing in potential and human strengths in spite of problems.  We all have the power to create positive lives when we take responsibility to solve our problems by focusing on our solutions and strengths.  San Patrignano finds and uses people’s strengths to solve problems and help people find peace and happiness.

Andrea Muccioli’s father and mother along with a handful of their friends started San Patrinano about 30 years ago.  Andrea grew up in the community and is still there today.

Andrea says:

“[S]ome 20,000 youths that have come through our doors and have left a little piece of themselves, their talents, capacities and intelligence to those who’ll be welcomed to the Community after them. We want to construct a more humane, united, and free world: a goal that we concretely try to achieve, day after day, by living those values which we believe in. All of this towards a world full of life, a world without drugs.”(http://www.sanpatrignano.org/?q=en/node/200)

San Patrignano is also an example of a successful harm reduction approach.

A video on San Patrignano is available at:  http://www.sanpatrignano.org/?q=node/5396

The following photos are of myself and Darko in San Patrignano’s wine cellar (it produces award winning wines); its inside horse arena (it breeds award winning race horses); its dining hall that seats 2000; a hill side view of some of its vineyards; and one of the 60 cottages for individuals and families who live and work in the community (many of whom are former residents).

Frankly, I would love to live in a community like San Patrignano and there is no reason we cannot build similar communities all over the world!