Stephanus Stiftung Foundation

How can people with disabilities participate in working life? Where are they being supported? How can SDG 10 (inclusion) be achieved? To find an answer to these questions, we visited the Stephanus Foundation's workshops for people with disabilities in Berlin together with participants of the SDG Accelerator "Partnerships for the Goals".
On a Tuesday morning in September, five social entrepreneurs and activists as well as the project team gathered in front of one of Stephanus Foundation workshops for people with disabilities in Berlin Weißensee. The Stephanus Foundation is one of the largest institutions of its kind in Germany. For 143 years, it has been developing various areas of charity in Germany, for example, cohabitation and leisure for the elderly, educational courses and programs for adults and children, as well as support for migrant families. One of its central elements is also caring for and working with people with disabilities. In 23 workshops located in Berlin and Brandenburg, Stephanus Foundation is employing people with mental or physical disabilities after their graduation from school.

The visit to the foundation is a central part of the study trip that led the participants to Berlin. Some of them work with people with disabilities themselves. The system of care and employment of people with disabilities in Germany and the countries of the Eastern Partnership and Russia is very different though. In Germany, every person with a physical or mental disability has the right to a place in a workshop for people with disabilities and to master one or more working skills. After graduating from school, students first complete two years of training in different areas (depending on the desire and capabilities of the students themselves) before becoming full-time employees.
In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, there is no established system of employment for people with disabilities. However, more and more social enterprises are taking on the role, which in Germany is carried out by organizations such as the Stephanus Foundation. Such social enterprises can also be found in our SOIN network: For example, the museum in the dark “03:30 Three after midnight” in Kyiv which is employing guides with visual impairments, or the inclusive Cafés “Ogurtsi” in St. Petersburg and “Inclusive Baristas” in Minsk that give job opportunities for people with physical and mental disabilities. There are also examples in Eastern Europe where people with disabilities work in restaurants and bakeries.

At the Stephanus Foundation, on the other hand, the range of jobs is even more diverse: Employees prepare meals in the kitchen, grind metals parts on lathes, assemble different car interior parts, pack cards and sweets. One of the most important workshops for the financial stability of the foundation is engaged in servicing equipment of the German brand SIEMENS. Creative work is possible, too: The foundation has its own souvenir shop where you can buy kitchen towels, carpets and ceramic dishes made by workers of clay modeling and weaving workshops. In addition to the workshops, there are also separate spaces for people with severe disabilities who cannot take part in the regular work of the workshops. But even there, people are given small tasks depending on their abilities: for example, unpacking individual parts that are then processed again in the workshops. In this way, they also become an important part of the workshops.

However, despite these opportunities offered to people with disabilities, more measures for inclusion need to be taken in Germany to meet SDG 10 by 2030. The same applies to many countries in Eastern Europe, e.g. Russia. The assessment of the progress on SDG 10 can be found in the first Shadow Report Russia together with recommendations from civil society on how to achieve inclusion and equality.