Values and Diaconal Work in Switzerland and in the Czech Republic

náhledIn our world today, when serving others is treated as selling goods, a person in need is a client and providers of social services are competing between each other, it is crucial for the ECCB’s Diaconia to clarify its position among other social service providers: what it is defined by, what makes it specific. How does an organisation providing social services stand up to its competition in a country with an unequal approach to non-state facilities, a country in which 90% of its citizens have no religious confession? How should pastoral services be provided when over 85% of the organisation’s employees and clients are atheist? How do we attract new colleagues when financial motivation is not an option (the available funds are insufficient), and how do we motivate the current experienced and good workers to stay?

Two years ago, the ECCB’s Diaconia started dealing with these issues intensively. At the time, a small pilot group visited a facility of the Stiftung Diakoniewerk Neumunster – Schweizerische Pflegerinenschule in Zollikerberg near Zurich. They run a hospital, an elderly people’s home, an elderly people’s home for clients with Alzheimer’s disease, a hospice, they provide respite care, run an educational centre, a home for the diaconal sisters, and they also engage in related businesses such as catering, gardening or laundry. The premises also include beautiful gardens with places for meditation. The Zollikerberg facility has approximately the same number of employees as the ECCB’s Diaconia.

We were very impressed by the facility, not only because of the visible prosperity of the place, but mainly due to its wonderful atmosphere. It turns out this is not only our impression: in a questionnaire, the Swiss clients stated that they felt good and in good hands as the main reason for their choice of this facility.

This year, a group of 40 directors of the ECCB Diaconia’s centres came to Zollikerberg. The aim of the visit was to get to know the system of values that is visible in all aspects of the local social work – primarily in the approach to clients, HR, fundraising or the cooperation with the diaconal sisters.

The director of the foundation, Dr. Werner Widmer, as well as his employees agree that the exceptional atmosphere and the prosperity are built on the system of values that is taught and respected on a daily basis, and into which the foundation has invested significant amounts of money, time and energy. They were willing to share these values and their work system with the representatives of the ECCB’s Diaconia in the course of a two-day training.

DSC_0396The Zollikenberg community realised they had to formulate certain values for themselves when the diaconal sisterhood, who had been the heart and soul of the facility for years, came to the humble conclusion that they were no longer able to attract new diaconal sisters or address the public with their run-in style of work. They prayed for finding new mission approaches and a modern spirituality in diaconal work. Our meeting and discussion with the sisters in the beautiful chapel was one of the most moving experiences for many of us.

The supply of health and social services for elderly people is higher than the demand in Switzerland. The competition is tough and clients are demanding, however there is a lack of qualified staff. Thanks to its good reputation, nonetheless, the facilities of the Diaconia are very much sought after, even by wealthy elderly people who pay extra health insurance. And since there are enough clients like this, the Zollikerberg facility is able to provide single rooms even to clients who only pay standard health insurance. In addition, the foundation is now constructing a new building.

All employees have to respect the following five values when working with clients as well as their colleagues (and they can also rest assured that they will be treated based on these values themselves):

The values are:

  1. Mutual respect, we respect each other (Mk 12:31 “The second is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”)
  1. Partnership (Gal 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
  1. Effectuality (Mt 5:37 “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’;”)
  1. Transparency (Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”)
  1. To see the whole – to see the other as a whole (1Cor 12:12 “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.”)

DSC_0296In Zollikerbergu we met with a modern management as well as exceptional personalities. We greatly appreciate the time and attention that were given to the directors of our centres. We got to see diaconal work which was successful by promoting Christian values. The Biblical verse that comes to mind when speaking of all this is Mt 6,33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Please pray with us and for us, for our diaconal work.

Kateřina Svobodová