Life at Peronnik
Kettcars and bicycles flying by, quarrels about who sits where in the parking lot that can be heard all over, fidgety kids and teenagers in front of the cafe – cheering enthusiasm or shouty rage: when it gets loud on the street in Sammatz, it is mostly the children of Peronnik that are the cause. If a group of quiet hikers notices something a bit unusual at second glance, it is usually an afternoon walk for our children’s home.
How is it to live inside the six living groups? Each is in its own way a ‘slightly different family’ – sometimes wild and painful, sometimes
Between four and eight children live in a group together with the carer. These children can no longer live in their birth or foster families because the families themselves have problems or because the children with their particularities break the family routine. Those involved have to fight to create a new life situation, a fragile ‘family’ with no fixed blood ties or sibling/parent-like relationships. Since it is unavoidable, little is said about it – but it is a huge achievement for the handicapped children and adolescents. At the same time it is a great chance for them to learn something about life and to take up things that they would hardly have known otherwise. That is why Sammatz should be as beautiful, warm and eventful as possible – the children need it. It is nourishment!
Beginning – We are happy about every new face that comes to us. It is always a new little cosmos, a previously unheard sound in the Peronnik concert. Even after 18 years, carers still talk (Peronnik carers can talk for hours about Peronnik children!) and in agreement say: «Well, we have never had a kid like that!»
For example, J. She came to us at the age of 13. She is a non-speaking autistic woman, for whom we cannot find an appropriate institution due to her self-harming behaviour. We visited her at home. As a vote of confidence, she put her feet on our knees. After the visit she wrote on the computer with supported communication that she thinks it would be better if she came to us. Her parents no longer have the strength to look after her at home. Then we knew that we take her!
etwas über das Leben
zu lernen …
Or J.-O., a boy with Down syndrome who was no longer manageable in his former home. He came to visit us with his parents. Although they liked the place, they thought it was too far for them to travel. J.-O. went to the first floor in the living room and sat down on a chair by the stairs. When the parents called him because it was time to leave, he answered from above: «Bye!» That was the decision.
Sometimes one hardly suspects the life-breaks that a child brings. A seven-year-old girl is new. Amazed, she finds herself in a group of six bigger boys and girls. As she sits at the table with everyone, she asks, «are you also on holiday here?»
Arrival – Peronnik means a new beginning and many things are different than before. A big topic for the older ones is mobile phones, computers and internet. There is no television at Peronnik and only very limited mobile and computer access. It is better to live together in a lively, friendly village with animals, nature, jointly celebrated annual festivals and a great holiday trip in the summer. 3D instead of 2D experiences!
It is common that a newly arrived 12-year-old has already consumed a lot of horror movies, nonsense from the internet and shooting games that would be enough for a whole childhood. Now a ‹detox› is prescribed! Of course this is a source of heated dispute. The children do however notice (albeit in silence) that less internet means more soul.
– als Crashkurs und
ganz kostenlos …
Even things like this happen: after six months, a boy has his first conversation with the responsible welfare department and proudly talks about his work in the stables and on the construction site. The responsible official asks: «… and how are you now without TV?» (this had been identified as problem before we accepted him). He answers: «Oh, I did not notice that.»
Of course, it does not always work. If the urge is too great and the Sammatz life does not balance them out, teenagers will go back. We often hear much later that they always take something with them.
Good nerves – being an employee at Peronnik is a dream job: Where else do you go through a full psycho-training whilst working, getting a completely free crash course? This sometimes needs a lot of nerves. Employees are said to have disappeared to cry in the cupboard – but the moments of closeness are just as touching.
One 14 year-old girl has tantrums, loudly insulting those around her. She screams, bangs the doors and throws things. The living group is regularly in turmoil. Once she says: «I only do this with people I like. I want to see if they can stand me.»
Help 1 – A girl has a tendency to be short-tempered and jealous of any attention to others. During a holiday in Denmark on the excursion to the chalk cliffs on Mön, there is an unnoticed climbing tour on the rocks. When we discover it high up it leaves us speechless. Do not shout or it will fall down! But the girl makes it down safely. Others have their problems even at the smallest climbs and are stuck. The girl comes and patiently helps with the descent. Step by step, she quietly gives the instructions for hands and feet, even those who she does not like and otherwise insults. That does not matter in this moment.
Help 2 – A boy often has trouble with his housemates and carers. There is only one person who understands him: Dinette, his favourite donkey. He tells everything to him. After that, things are getting better and people can talk to him again.
Help 3 – Emergency – the carer on the early shift has overslept! Luckily, a teenager wakes up. He wakes the others. The big ones help to get the little ones ready and even give them a packed lunch. They then get themselves ready and everyone manage to get to school somehow. It works!
Learning – The sink drain is clogged. The employee or carer is not able to unblock it. Finally, the pipe is unscrewed and a hard block of wax comes out. A boy is following everything very attentively. «That shouldn’t be done again», is his dry comment.
Dancing – Once a week our folk dance with live music for villagers, volunteers and Peronnik children takes place. A boy who taught himself guitar plays in the band. A girl, who otherwise does not stick to rules, dances all the dances properly. A young adult who has a solid dance partner among the volunteers is of course motivated. Even a girl who is still very new already dances eagerly. Often one hears the question: «Are we dancing again on Friday?»
The kids and teenagers at Peronnik are all carrying some weight with them. But does that mean that they should weep in sorrow? Not at all – life must be fun; even more so for the Peronnik children! There is a life out there waiting for every person. It should not be missed. What happens to you is no coincidence; everything happens for a reason. To discover it, you have to enjoy life no matter how unusual it is.
Sometimes our children are disheartened but often they are also wonderfully cheerful, incredibly original, bursting with life and sometimes more authentic than their ‹smart› carers. They are the soul of the place!