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Sophiagård Elmehøjen: human wisdom

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Anthroposophy is an amalgam of the Greek words for anthropos (human) and sophia (wisdom) and it forms the basis of the pedagogical approach of Rudolf Steiner, which strives to develop pupils' intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner. This is the approach taken by Sophiagård Elmehøjen, a home for persons with intellectual disabilities in the village of Ølsted at Funen, in Denmark. “All people need to feel some kind of meaning in what they are doing,” explains head mistress Anja Grage. “It’s important that they see they have a role in society, that society needs the work they can do.”

Sophiagård Elmehøjen’s 24 residents are all intellectually disabled, but physically mobile, so the challenge is to offer them both a home and a working community. “We have a series of workshops for our residents: herbs, candle-making, weaving, feltmaking and they can also work on the farm – cleaning the stables, gathering the eggs, making sure the animals have food and water… It enhances their confidence and helps with their sense of purpose. At the end of the day, we all find some kind of identity in our jobs. One young man who now works in the herb workshops, drying plants to make lip-balm and soap, once told me proudly ‘I’m a farmer’ because he previously used to work on the farm. That identity stuck with him, giving him a sense of belonging, pride and purpose. It’s extremely important.”

Anja is flanked by 40 co-workers, pedagogues, administrative and technical staff who make the organisation tick on a daily basis, supporting its residents 24/7: “We always focus on what they are able - not unable - to do. Sometimes they need guidance, or pedagogical support, or maybe we might have to adapt the machinery for them. But with a bit of patience, we can help them evolve and develop. It makes all the difference.”
In 2019, with the help of an EU-guaranteed loan from Merkur, backed by the EIF, Anja was able to purchase a house just across the street and to start renovating it in order to house three more residents. “The house we bought is perfect. It can take three more people and has a lot of farmland. If we get permission, we’d like to build a multi-purpose space there, so we can hold events, theatre, concerts, lectures… It’s something we’ve been dreaming of for many years.”

“It’s not like a normal business,” Anja concludes. “If you have to take care of people, it demands more. We have four people who have been here for 33 years… This is their family. It’s not easy to switch off when I go home…But I truly love my job.”

Company: Sophiagård Elmehøjen (Denmark)

Type of business: social enterprise

EIF financing: EaSI Guarantee Financial Instrument

Financial intermediary: Merkur

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Denmark, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/dk/index.htm

 

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