An interview with managing director Frank Mehnert and daycare center manager Simone Schumann.
Editor: Hello Ms. Schumann, good afternoon Mr. Mehnert! Great news for you, and especially the kids at this facility. In a few days there will be a new climbing park on the premises of this daycare center. But let's start from the beginning: What distinguishes your daycare center, what are its special features?
Our daycare center is part of the Lebenshilfe Neuwied Förderzentrum gGmbH, the support center in Neuwied and looks after children with a wide variety of disabilities, such as autism, epilepsy or language disorders. We have been an integrative daycare center since 2016. This means that disabled and non-disabled children are cared for together in one group. Thus, inclusion is being actively lived. We currently care for 32 children in 3 groups. We also offer necessary therapies for children with disabilities.
Editor: What do these therapy offers look like in practice?
Simone Schumann: In addition to general intensive support and care, we also offer the children ergotherapy and physiotherapy as well as speech therapy. We also employ our own occupational therapist, and we obtain outside support for the other fields of therapy. For instance, we have a cooperation arrangement with the Heilpädagogisch Therapeutischen Zentrum (HTZ), the Curative Education Center in Neuwied. This also has great advantages for the parents: If they collect the children in the afternoon, they don't have to bring them to therapy, but can devote themselves entirely to the time they spend together.
Editor: Let's come to the climbing landscape. It is easy to imagine that such a climbing frame is a lot of fun for the children. Why did the old one have to be removed in the first place?
Frank Mehnert: The climbing frame was simply getting long in the tooth and the main girders no longer met the high safety requirements. Climbing without risk would have been impossible. So the existing climbing landscape had to be dismantled. That was in April 2020. Of course, the children were very unhappy at first, but it was absolutely necessary for safety reasons. So the whole of last summer the children had to get by without a climbing frame. But as we all know: children are real improvisation artists. They then simply played with mud, water and sand.
Editor: But a climbing frame like this isn't just for fun, right?
Absolutely! When climbing, the children sharpen their senses; train their sense of balance and motoric skills. This is important for every child, but ours often have to catch up on certain developmental stages. A climbing park is ideal because the child is challenged and encouraged “as a whole” to a certain extent and in addition the physical activity is promoted.
Frank Mehnert: And of course often no such possibility exists at home. There is not always a playground nearby and unfortunately some parents simply don’t have the time to offer their children something like this.
Editor: When will “your” children be able to inaugurate the climbing park?
Frank Mehnert: We have already commissioned the production. We have received the information that construction can start around the end of June. We are all really looking forward to it.
Editor: Let's come to the collaboration with Lohmann. How did this come about? What do you particularly appreciate about this partnership?
Frank Mehnert: I've known the dedicated Lohmann team for a long time. During my time as the facility manager of the Caritas Werkstätten in Polch, a very close cooperation existed. Our workshop for instance packaged adhesive tapes for Lohmann, stored and despatched brochures. The cooperation was always on eye level. I have been the managing director of Lebenshilfe Neuwied since January 1st, 2020. And because I knew of Lohmann’s diverse social and, above all, regional commitment, for instance for the Neuwied Zoo, I approached the responsible people and described our situation here. They recognized the need for immediate aid and wanted to support us.
Simone Schumann: We can't manage an investment like the climbing frame on our own. The budget is tight and a lot of money is going into the procurement of protective items such as masks and disinfectants in the course of the corona pandemic. When we found out that Lohmann was going to support us with 10,000 euros as the sole sponsor, we were all really thrilled. Because that doesn't just mean that we can build a new climbing landscape for our children, but we can develop as a daycare center as a whole and make the facility even more attractive for our children. Or to put it another way: make our center, and thus the children even more radiant. Lohmann has made a decisive contribution to this.
Ms. Schumann, Mr. Mehnert, thank you very much for this interview!