My day at work

This year I’m working at Caritas’s Saint AugustineCenter where we take care of adults with disabilities. They live with their families and come to us over the day. I have been working here for ten months and I stay for a few more weeks.

Our working day starts at 8:20 when my volunteer colleague, Teresa, and I leave the house for work. In the morning, all of the colleagues are gathering together in the kitchen for a coffee or tea while discussing their daily tasks. The clients arrive around this time, too, and they go to their groups` rooms. There are three groups, each consists of eight people approximately, but not everyone is present all the time. Teresa and I are talking to the pedagogues, and we join the group where the most help is needed.

At about 8:40 we join the groups and start some quite activities with people. The groups are sorted by their skills, so the first group it’s more about playing games, learning about animals, colors, numbers or letters. In the second group most people can read and write, or they are learning it, and they also do some easy math. This is what they usually do in the morning. In the third group the morning time is used for quiet reading. In all of the groups they do some crafts like sewing, drawing or painting.

Around 9:30 the groups do some reflecting circles, sometimes together or separately in the rooms. We talk about how we feel at the moment, what we did yesterday and what are we going to do today. Additionally, all the groups have their own rituals like praying, singing or reading out encouraging cards.

10:00 it’s breakfast time. Everyone washes their hands and prepares the meal. Teresa and I are storing some things in the kitchen, so that we can prepare some porridge for ourselves. After a short prayer-song we have an hour for eating, drinking and chatting. It’s always a really relaxing time and opportunity to talk to the colleagues or plan the rest of the day. After breakfast it’s time to clean the eating area. Everyone helps with sweeping and mopping the floor and one or two people get the task of cleaning the counter and drying the dishes in the kitchen.

The rest of the day is not bound to a strict routine. There are a lot of possibilities on how we can spend our time, so here are only a few of them. Several times a week one can join a music-therapy and two days a week clients can work with a physiotherapist who comes to the house. Around these set dates we can plan our program as we like it. Since there is a sports room, one opportunity would be to do some gymnastics or to play with a ball. We can also go to the music room to play on the keyboard or with the other instruments. When the weather is nice, we like to go outside in the courtyard or to a nearby park for some playing or walking. Sometimes we decide to visit the church next door. Quite often we come up with some activities in the house like cleaning or some craft projects in groups. Once a week, every group gets the chance to cook and have a meal together. In case there is some time left, we can spend it in groups, working on the same tasks like in the morning.

Once a week Teresa and I are holding a German lesson for those who are able to participate. We agree on a topic and find ten words we want to teach. One of us prepares something to visualise the words. These can be cards with pictures or a bigger drawing with relevant things on it. Most of the time, we prepare some cards with written words, so that we can match them with pictures. Additionally, we prepare a worksheet for the end of the lesson. At the beginning of the lessons, we work with the cards or pictures to remember the words as well as possible. Then we continue with some kind of game, in order to learn them even better and for fun. The last task is usually the worksheet and colouring the pictures on it for those who finish early. I enjoy these lessons a lot, because they free me to get creative and to decide, how to do them.

Since there are many people at the Center, there is a birthday to celebrate all the time. We come together around the tables where we usually have our breakfast and everyone congratulates the birthday person. A few people can play the piano and we sing a birthday song. After that it’s time for the cake and we spend some time dancing to the music.

Our working day ends at 14:30, and the clients get picked up by their families. We get them all ready to leave and when they are gone, the workday is over, so Teresa and I are going home.

Sarah-Maria Nafken,