About a year ago we, a group of parents, took over a small farm. The couple that was running it before was too old to continue the work. As our children used to play in the farm during their spare time and wanted to continue doing this, we decided to set up an association and took over the farm. That made us into farmers overnight, having to take care of goats, rabbits, ponies and chickens. We put a lot of work and energy in this project: group barn for the rabbits; conversion of a construction trailer into a new chicken home etc. After that, we had some time again for new ideas. Somebody asked if a young man with disabilities could help with the work on our farm. As we were happy about any helping hand, he started with the late Saturday feeding and locking service. Now Jan comes every Saturday with his mother or father and helps on the farm. He works more independently and is able to look after the animals, feed them and lock the barns.

His mother asked me, if I could issue an employment certificate for Jan. I wrote a short statement – a small contribution to prove that he was working for us. Because of this job confirmation Jan received an assistance fee (Swiss requirements for an assistance fee is 10 hours of work per week on the regular job market). The support person, who has been accompanying Jan through school and training for a long time, can now be paid and with a new small apartment close to his family’s home, Jan can live independently.

I learnt that small possibilities to participate can have a big impact and that we have to start somewhere. My short letter with the job confirmation, our openness to Jan to give him work on the farm created something very important: Jan receives an assistance fee now and his work is very valuable and appreciated. We can do it – this could be the start for something bigger to also give other challenged people similar chances and outlooks.

A lesson that I learnt over and over again: We as "experts" have to work together with these committed and innovative mothers, listen to them and learn how they initiate, create and find new non-traditional ways in the interest of their childrens‘ more independent lives.

Judith Adler

October 2015

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