This institution is a safe haven for people who are mentally ill. These people have reached a point in their lives where they do not have the motivation anymore to do anything or even to get out of bed. The institute is supposed to give them a routine into their daily lives so they can see a point in being active. This kind of society though did not exist 18 years ago.
17 years ago in Upper Palatinate, a region in Bavaria, two institutes, in Weiden and Neumarkt, have just been opened. Institutes where mentally ill people are allowed to come so they are able to get out of the house. Herbert Ziegler and his colleague at that time had the permission to create a system like that in Regensburg. Herbert though wanted to create something different, he wanted something where the clients could enjoy themselves and were not being asked about their illness. So he created the coffee shop, The Coffee Islands, which is now the heart of this institution. It all started in an apartment complex where they have rented two or three apartments and connected them as one. The room for the coffee shop has been created where people can come, the other rooms were being occupied to create activities for the clients such as the art group. Then new workers came and left.
After almost 17 years (in September it will be their anniversary) they have moved from the small apartments into a big house renovated just for this cause, there are now six employees (one secretary, four certified social pedagogues and one housekeeper) and the group activities have grown too. This institution has grown so much that it has become a whole little community, everybody is responsible for their tasks not just the employees but also the clients who withhold little jobs where they can earn little money.
In my time, I have learned so many things for which I am thankful! I have learned how to interact with these kind of people and how to react to them if there are any issues. I have learned that if you just listen to what someone has to say it will already brighten their day. I have learned that this opportunity, even if they just sit in the coffee shop the whole day, helps those people so much in so many ways by just being surrounded with people who might be suffering from the same illness. I have learned that most people are not born like this, it appears later in their lives and there will come a point where they cannot handle it anymore, mentally wise.
I have definitely enjoyed my co-op a lot and in the end I have become very interested in the field of social studies. It is amazing and interesting in so many ways and there is still so much to learn.
*photo credit: http://www.newenglandcoffee.com/sweets-sweetie-diy-chocolate-coffee-beans/