The final workshop will take place at the Bildungs - und Begegnungsstätte Windmühle Seifhennersdorf. We talked about the Windmühle Education Centre, its history, its interesting form and what it offers to disabled visitors with Mr. Markus Kranich, M.A. President of the association.
Could you please briefly introduce the Bildungs - und Begegnungsstätte Windmühle Seifhennersdorf?
The Windmühle Seifhennersdorf (Windmill) is a bit of a hybrid house: sometimes it is a three-star hotel and a place for stormy wedding celebrations, sometimes a conference centre for international congresses, sometimes it turns into a youth education centre - for young people from Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland to get together, or a cultural house - a place for concerts, theatre, creative seminars. It also serves as a place for family holidays with many children and their (vacationing) parents, or for groups of guests. Finally, it is often a holiday home, for leisure and meeting people with disabilities. All this is Windmühle Seifhennersdorf.
We have 26 rooms with a total of 60 beds. 4 rooms are fully furnished for wheelchair users and equipped with a bathroom with a bath for the disabled. A total of 10 rooms are at ground level and are therefore suitable for people with limited mobility. We also have 5 conference rooms and have our own gatronomy.
When was it founded, what does it offer to the disabled?
The idea to build an educational and meeting centre in this house was conceived before the peaceful revolution in 1989. But back then it was really just a vision that had no chance of becoming a reality. With the reunification of Germany and the new possibilities, the Windmühle Seifhennersdorf e.V. was founded in 1992. At that time, 8 million euros were invested in the construction of the house. 100% subsidy from the Free State of Saxony.
Why did you decide to provide accommodation for the disabled?
In 1992, this too began first as a vision... The first Minister for Social Affairs of the Free State of Saxony was Dr. Hans Geisler. When he took office, he made a nationwide picture of the work ahead of him. He looked at all the facilities for children, all the facilities for the handicapped, all the hospitals. His decision at the time was surprising: he wanted to focus on the facilities for the disabled first. These people suffered the most under socialism, their life expectancy was the shortest. People with disabilities were the first to recognise that political and social conditions had changed. As a consequence, our house as an educational and meeting centre was also consistently built to be wheelchair accessible. Today, the market is much larger - especially due to demographic changes. However, to all the guests with disabilities who visit our house today, I must say, "It has become a matter of the heart for us!"
What is the interest in accommodation for the disabled and the feedback from your clients?
We have quite a good reputation among accommodation and recreational facilities for people with disabilities... We have groups of guests who have been coming to us for 20 years - and there must be a reason for that. We also try to innovate from time to time, so our guests don't get bored.
Interest in accommodation for people with disabilities is only going in one direction: demand is growing.
What has been the most difficult for you and what has given you the most pleasure or motivation for the future?
The hardest? The journey from a non-profit organisation, which was meant as a measure to integrate the unemployed into the labour market, to the free market. When I started here as managing director, unemployment was very high and the average age of the working population in the border region was high. At that time, the association paid only half of the employees, the other half being financed by the state. Today, it is almost impossible to find staff on the labour market and as an association we bear all the personnel costs ourselves. This has tripled in eight years. It has been and still is a difficult journey.
What did we enjoy the most? That it works :). People like to come to Windmühle to experience something, something special. And we work as a team every day to make everything work.
What motivates me? There's so much to do! We have a German-Czech-Polish project on the agenda. We'll be expanding our complex once more. We want to help develop tourism as a whole in this region. And we want to enjoy our work as colleagues. That's what motivates me: doing something good for the employees and for the guests.
Thank you for the interview and may you continue to do well in your work.