Lebenshilfe Dinslaken:
From Lambaréné to Agen
Lambaréné “between water and the jungle“
Parlez vous franҫais?
Do you speak french?
With loving attention to detail

Lebenshilfe Dinslaken: From Lambaréné to Agen

Our visit to the Albert Schweitzer facilities for the disabled in Dinslaken

Not far from tretford’s headquarters – in Dinslaken – you can find the Albert-Schweitzer-Einrichtungen für Behinderte gGmbH (ASE), whose sole partner is the LEBENSHILFE Dinslaken, a counseling and support organization.

This is where every single tretford color sample and every motif sample – such as the butterflies and hearts that feature on some of our tretford carpets – is made with lots of love and effort.

We remember Albert Schweitzer as the famed jungle physician. “Lambaréné” will always be connected with his name. It is in this town, in the West African nation of Gabon, that he ran a hospital.

He was a man of action who didn’t allow himself to be confined by ideologies. Schweizer lived by the maxim “respect for life“ and this also holds true for the ASE in Dinslaken.

At the beginning of August, we looked up one of the five workshop locations, which employs about 180 people with disabilities, for an interview.

We were welcomed by Herr van Rossum (Department Head, Packaging and Assembly), Herr Claaßen (Production Workshop) and Halime, an employee at the Albert Schweitzer facilities.

Halime is vision-impaired though numerous operations have been able to restore some of her eyesight. While conducting our interview with Halime, it soon transpires that she is remarkably well prepared.

When we ask Halime what a typical workday at the ASE looks like, she immediately pulls out her notes, in which the work and break schedule is minutely detailed.

Generally, a workday at the ASE workshop lasts six hours but, obviously, there is some individual variation as this schedule is not doable for everyone employed here.

Parlez vous francais? Do you speak French ? Bien sûr, of course...

In addition to providing actual work, ASE also offers various courses. At school we would term these as “extracurricular activities”. Halime’s face lights up when we broach this subject. She tells us that there will be an exchange this year with Dinslaken’s partner city of Agen in Southern France.

Some of the employees who work at the Dinslaken workshop will travel to Agen to uphold a 30-year-old exchange tradition with an establishment for disabled people in Agen. 

In cooperation with the local community college, Halime is taking a French class to prepare for the exchange. She wants to surprise the exchange partners in France with her newly-acquired French skills.

For the employees at Dinslaken, coming here to work every morning is almost like coming to a second home. They are among other people as they work here, they are among friends; there’s a sense of community and normality. Every single person here feels accepted and appreciated.

In fact, towards the end of the year, it’s not unusual for the administrative staff to have to remind employees of their unused vacation days. It also happens that employees drop by the ASE while they are on vacation.

„Knowlege has limits, thinking doesn‘t“ (Albert Schweitzer)

The ASE offers its employees various types of job qualifications as well as training for numerous areas of work

• Cemetery gardening
• Gardening and landscaping
• Bee keeping, pouring wax foundations
• Kitchen work
• Lettershop
• Metal processing

• Montage / electrical assembly
• Tailor shop
• Carpentry workshop / wood processing
>• Packaging
• Laundry services
Eisenrauch BBQ & more

There’s a vocational education section to ascertain which area of work

is the best match for a new employee, and to find out what kind of support this individual needs.

The vocational educational section takes about two years and deals largely with such questions as “What are my interests? “What are my strengths? “ and “How much support do I need?”

Operational samples made with love

Producing hand-made samples – operational samples or specimens – for tretford is an important component of the work of the ASE. This task is assigned to the ASE’s Packaging and Montage department. There are, however, no rigidly-structured work groups. A dynamic integration process takes place and employees are welcome to join us and support us in our work.

Halime isn’t surprised that new employees frequently come and join this group. “The colors are so radiant and we often get to work with lovely motifs.  We always know when a holiday is around the corner – we see it in the Easter eggs or stars motifs from which the hand-made samples are crafted and labeled!”

Here in the workshop, our carpet is very much appreciated because it’s so colorful, boasts such beautiful motifs and has such nice haptics. 

Halime tells us that it is particularly helpful to also be able to process the punched samples while sitting at a table. This allows employees with more serious disabilities to participate in this work. They can, for example, stick numbers onto the color samples. Labeling is a common process here that just about any of us can learn how to do well and quickly.

“When I am assigned with a task, I am really eager to fulfill it!”

Punching the samples at the large machine, however, is something that only three of four people who have been specially-trained and instructed are allowed to do.

It requires more elaborate training – as well as quite a bit of muscle power according to Christoph. Christoph works at the punching machine and proudly shows us the muscles that he has developed as a result of this work.

The thing that strikes us is that everyone here has a smile on their face. No one is annoyed with their work. When asked about their favorite work, the answer is: “Everything! – I enjoy all of it.”

Producing an operational sample, by the way, takes about six minutes. Halime timed this for us. We were rather baffled! 

She thereupon responds: „When I am assigned a task, I am eager to complete it.”

Dear Halime, you can be sure of one thing: You handled this particular task masterfully! We are delighted at how well-prepared and informed you were. Thanks you very kindly for devoting your time to showing us around, we really enjoyed our visit at the ASE!