What do Frida Kahlo, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Hawking, Michael J. Fox, Alex Zanardi and Raul Krauthausen have in common? – Right, they are impressive people who besides live or have lived with a physical, mental and/or psychological disability. What these examples are intended to show is that all too often, we perceive the impairment as the most strinking attribute when we meet people with disabilities and lose sight of the impressive person. What limits people with disabilities, however, are usually not their physical, mental and/or psychological attributes – they have often gotten used to them quite well – but the external circumstances and/or reactions of other people. So that you are well prepared for your commitment for people with disabilities, we have collected 4 tips for you here.
1. Reflect on your own attitude!
As described above, we still too often lose sight of the countless other attributes as soon as we meet people with disabilities. Therefore, make yourself clear beforehand that you want to be involved with versatile people and not just with one attribute. People with disabilities do not want special treatment from you, but acceptance. They don’t need your pity, but are happy for your time and attention.
You can find a lot of inspiration to reflect on your own attitude on Raul Krauthausen‘s blog, where many people with disabilities have their say. Unfortunately it’s only in german.
2. Be sensitive!
Working with disabled people requires empathy and a very attentive approach with regard to them and to yourself. People with intellectual and/or mental disabilities do not always respond in a way you would expect or are used to. In addition, their stories can touch you closely.
3. Be honest to yourself!
Nicole Katschewitz, former volunteer coordinator of the nursing home House of Life, gives the following advice to volunteers: “Be honest to yourself and pay attention to how much closeness and distance you can accept. If you need distance, then keep it. If both of you are okay, you can also hug.“ As a general rule, the assignment should be fun, and good for you and the people you work with!
In case a situation overwhelms you emotionally or physically, please contact the responsible employee immediately for advice.
4. Get yourself an enhanced criminal record!
There are no formal requirements for short-term volunteering. If you want to volunteer long-term, you need to apply for a criminal record certificate.
WHAT IS A CRIMINAL RECORD CERTIFICATE?
A criminal record certificate (“Führungszeugnis”) is an extract from the Federal Central Criminal Register. It proves that you do not have a history of criminal offences. For the work with children and teenagers you need a so-called enhanced criminal record certificate (“erweitertes Führungszeugnis”). Before you can apply for this document, the social organisation you want to volunteer for will need to provide you with a letter.
HOW DO I REQUEST AN ENHANCED CRIMINAL RECORD CERTIFICATE IF I’M REGISTERED IN GERMANY?
You will find all the information required to request your criminal record here (in German). Whether you need a criminal record certificate for your volunteering activity will be communicated by the organisation you wish to work for. They will also support you with the application.
HOW DO I REQUEST AN ENHANCED CRIMINAL RECORD CERTIFICATE IF I’M NOT REGISTERED IN GERMANY (OTHER EU COUNTRY)?
If you’re not registered in Germany, it’s a little more complicated. The German Federal Office of Justice has signed agreements with some European countries which make it possible to request a criminal record check in your country of origin. In this case, you will obtain a European criminal record certificate (“Europäisches Führungszeugnis”). For further information, please contact the Federal Office of Justice:
Bundesamt für Justiz
– Bundeszentralregister –
Adenauerallee 99 – 103
+49 228 99 410-40
You want to get involved for people with disabilities?
Then have a look at vostel.de and discover numerous volunteering opportunities for disabled people!
More tips and information on volunteering you will find in our volunteer guide or through our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). Here we will keep you up to date on everything important in the world of volunteering! So feel free to drop in there as well! 🙂
Your team from vostel.de