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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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A right to employment

People with disabilities find work, fulfillment through a Lutheran facility in Germany

"I love my job here," Stefan Götz said of his work in a factory that employs people with disabilities. After the former plumber suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, he thought he wouldn't be able to find a job again. But he did — at the "Wefa" (Werkstatt für angepasste Arbeit or workshop for adaptive work) in Ahorn, a little town in Bavaria, Germany.

Erkan  Cagiran, a 14-year employee of
Erkan Cagiran, a 14-year employee of Wefa who does office work and data processing for external clients, talks with his boss, Franz K. Schön, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany deacon who serves as CEO of Wefa.
Götz is one of about 700 Wefa employees and residents. All have disabilities that keep them from finding work in traditional companies.

"Handicapped people have a right to employment," said Franz K. Schön, Wefa CEO and an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany deacon. "It is not just about keeping these people busy. It is about real employment and being a part of the labor force."

Wefa believes people with disabilities, like others, gain much self-esteem and self-image from their profession.

Facilities like Wefa are often called sheltered workshops, but that's not how Wefa sees it. Employees, who mostly manufacture parts for the automotive industry, meet production deadlines and keep up with their business competition. "If we want to play with the big dogs, then we have to play by their rules," Schön said.


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