"People are Different - So are our Rooms!" - The "Star Villa" is Oldenburg's First Integrated Hotel
In 2005, parents of the special education school branch of the Waldorf school in Oldenburg started the Verein Baumhaus (Treehouse Association). Their goal was to create, together with a pedagogical specialist, housing and employment opportunities that would provide a route to social participation for their adolescent children, despite their disabilities. Just a year later, the organisation purchased land on the grounds of the former Bahlsen biscuit factory near the city center in Oldenburg. They founded the Stiftung Baumhaus, as a part of which four non-profit associations for various living and working opportunities were created.
Today, the Baumhaus living center offers around 30 residential spaces and an additional 25 spaces in a care center. The Baumhaus workshop consists of several different operations with a total of 65 employees. Individuals with assistance needs work in the kitchen and provide 350 meals per day - not only for Baumhaus's own employees, but also for the neighboring Waldorf school and employees from neighboring businesses. "We want to encourage encounters, which is why so many of the offerings of our workshops are in the services sector," said Bettina Unruh, the director. "Oldenburg residents make use of our daily lunch in the cafeteria or of the bicycle repair shop, the garden group or the laundry, for example. In this way, they develop contacts with our employees, and this helps to reduce anxieties - this results in acceptance and appreciation." The hotel "Villa Stern" and the café "Schnuppe," which are being developed by Baumhaus Inklusion GmbH, will add a barrier-free hotel and a café. As an integrated workplace, the hotel and café will offer employment opportunities, in positions that include social insurance, for individuals with disabilities. The opening is planned for spring 2017. With 16 individually and carefully decorated double rooms, the hotel's initiators want to provide for the various needs of guests. "People are different - so are our rooms," says Bettina Unruh, coming right to the point. "We don't see disabilities as a deficit, but as a part of the personality of the person. According to our understanding, people with disabilities are an enrichment – in other words, they add emotional and social enrichment to our society." The hotel will create a total of twelve workplaces, six of which are for people with disabilities.
A Model of Inclusion
The Software AG Foundation is among the supporters of the flagship project in Oldenburg. Project manager Klaus Plischke is certain that this project will bear valuable fruit. "In recent years, we supported various Baumhaus projects and have seen the positive effects these projects have in the social environment and in their operations. The integrated hotel and the cafe are meaningful and obvious next steps in this development." In the conversation about inclusive coexistence in our society, there is now an even greater demand for employment that offers social insurance for people with support needs. "The hotel and food services sector is well suited to this in several ways," said Plischke. "This sector not only offers appropriate jobs, but also creates many opportunities for encounters between people with and without disabilities - which can help to carry the idea of inclusion forward."