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Busy bakers The taste of Christmas

During the week they live in group homes and have jobs in sheltered workshops. But on Saturdays, Roger, Hans, Jeannine, Stefan, Michi, Ruth and Julius meet at the Rüebli-Träff.

It’s a leisure centre in Wildegg, canton Aargau, where mentally challenged people can enjoy their free time. The run-up to Christmas is not exactly hectic here, but the focus is on handicrafts to sell at local bazaars and Christmas markets. It’s a special time for the visitors and theirs carers – and also one of the few opportunities to be noticed by other people and, at the same time, earn a bit of money for the organisation.

This particular Saturday, they’re baking Christmas biscuits. Some they’ll eat themselves, others will be presents for friends and family. They make the classics: buttery Mailänderli, chocolate-and-nut Brunsli and cinnamon stars, called Zimtsterne in German.

The organisers of the Rüebli-Träff try to offer the visitors an activity that is self-determined, varied and sociable. Wherever possible, the visitors themselves should be able to choose the locations and activities. They treat each other as friends and with mutual respect.

The Rüebli-Träff is one of only a few Swiss leisure centres for people with mental disabilities. For a few hours a week, it’s a place where they can feel independent from institutions, workshops, group homes and families.

(Images: Thomas Kern,

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