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, swissinfo.ch)