Founded in January 1983 in the little town of Macomer on Sardinia, the “Progetto H” (PH) was created by a group of 9 friends. Their interest and aim was to create a cooperative that promoted the integration of disadvantaged and disabled individuals into the work environment by offering firsthand work experience and opportunities, ultimately resulting in rehabilitation into society.
At a time in Italy when levels of unemployment were extremely high and it was thought almost impossible for disabled people to find work, creating a cooperative of this kind was something of a utopian enterprise. Against the odds and thanks to the demand and necessity of creating job roles for this group of disadvantaged people, the PH prospered and grew.
It fought against the notion of mass production and “normality” of the business world, and encouraged the development of wider participation, solidarity and a basic respect for the individual and his needs.
The first activity of the newly formed PH was to tackle the tourism industry. Being a beautiful island, Sardinia attracts a large number of tourists, creating vast job opportunities particularly during the summer months; this was the first form of job placement organized by the Cooperative’s partners. The profits were invested in various training programs, which then enabled them to run workshops for different crafts such as pottery and the manufacture of leather and gold.
As work opportunities (processing under contract) increased, the job placement arose, employment continued to grow. This included the management of: school canteens in several towns on the island, receptive structures, day care and rehabilitation centers for disabled, public parks. PH ran and managed activities relating to the employment and social rehabilitation of individuals with pending criminal proceedings or mental instability.
With the enormous influx of people to the country from North Africa in February 2011 Italy declared a state of humanitarian emergency. PH promptly rose to the challenge with professionalism and competence. In May, the Cooperative received and welcomed 20 refugees from Somalia, Sudan and Sierra Leone. Due to the diffidence and concern of local residents, the Cooperative encountered some initial difficulties, however this resistance was quickly overcome, and with the involvement of local communities and city councils, PH managed to successfully begin the integration of the new arrivals to Italian society.