Parallelo: A project bringing migrants and locals together

In just a few months, a group of young Italians turned a property confiscated from the mafia into a beautiful space for migrants, refugees and locals to come together.

The result was Parallelo, a project founded in October 2017 in Castellanza, a small town just outside of Milan. 👇

At Parallelo you can buy a backpack and get your table fixed — or just grab a seat and make some new friends over coffee.

Parallelo’s mission?

Working with creative locals, migrants and refugees to produce and sell useful, sustainable products.

When Refugee.Info visited their workshop recently, Parallelo team members were printing pages for custom-made notebooks. 💻📒

Sewing machines were up and running. ✂️

🔨 Hammering sounds came from the next room.

Team members stopped to say ciao 👋 before continuing with their work.

"Parallelo is a second home to us. Open, creative, and welcoming— it is just as we imagined during our first meetings, before we ever opened.” - Francesca, co-founder of Parallelo

A few of the migrants and refugees who have studied at Parallelo are now teaching courses themselves.

Co-founder Michele and former student-turned-instructor Boubacar run the project’s fully operational falegnameria (woodworking shop), where they teach their woodworking skills to migrants and locals, and create specially designed furniture for clients in town.

“We do not simply create sustainable products. We also build new relationships with the people living in this area and the local actors, and we try to build a future with the artisans and the migrants.” - Michele

Michele and Boubacar also work with Mohamed at Parallelo, who trains people on how to make backpacks from scratch in the sartoria or tailor shop.

“It’s been two years. I’ve been working at Parallelo before it was even really open. I like it here, helping people has always been a dream of mine. I teach, but I always learn so much from my students and by the end of the course we become a team. They have a good opportunity here, I have high hopes for their future." - Mohamed

Not only do Boubacar and Mohamed find their work at Parallelo meaningful, but it’s also helped them to become financially independent. Since they started working, they’ve moved out of a center and into their own apartment nearby.

Parallelo is not just a workplace, but one big family where its members are constantly learning from each other.

"Each workshop ends with everyone sharing a meal, creating a natural environment for cultural exchange." - Michele

See what Parallelo is up to by following them here.

Know of a great migrant-run business or of another migrant/Italian project mix?

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