Serving Partners – ZAK
In our recent volunteer survey, some of you suggested that it would be useful to have more detailed information about the partners Serve the City regularly works with – so you can more easily decide whether certain volunteering opportunities appeal to you.
We’ve taken this as an opportunity to put together a series of new articles to share with you – ‘Serving Partners.’
To kick off this campaign we have interviewed Daniele Pauly, who is the Founder of our partner organisation ZAK.
ZAK is an organisation that provides activity, stimulation, sports therapy and social inclusion for young people in Luxembourg who suffer with mental or physical disabilities. It is a charity that is close to Daniele’s heart, having started it off in response to a lack of available opportunities for her autistic son.
There are no barriers to being able to volunteer with the young people at ZAK – just an open heart and enthusiasm. So, read more from Daniele and we hope you’ll soon decide to give some of your precious time to this wonderful charity…
What is your background and why did you decide to start working for ZAK?
I worked for the European Commission and I retired a month ago. I’m the mother of an autistic child, and like many other parents, I was quite frustrated about the lack of sport and leisure activities for our children outside the organisations for handicapped persons and especially young people with mental disabilities. So we decided to start ZAK in September 2008.
Please tell us a little about ZAK and what the organisation’s goals are
The goal of ZAK is simply the inclusion of mentally disabled persons through a variety of activities which they can practice together with other people.We offer sports and leisure activities, some travelling, sightseeing, movies etc. Our biggest achievement is the integration of two mixed basketball teams in the regular national championship, proving that handicapped players are able to perform outside the world of “handisports”.
Can you describe an average working day in your job for ZAK?
There is no average working day :-). Every day (or either night, as our activities mostly take place in the evenings) is different. We try to adapt our work to the needs of our members. In fact I do a lot of administrative work, while other volunteers act “sur le terrain”.
What do you most enjoy about working for ZAK?
I enjoy ZAK essentially for the fun it brings for my son and his friends, for the friendships that have developed over the years between parents, coaches etc.. and for the relaxed atmosphere at our training sessions which are not exclusively performance oriented, but bring a lot of fun and laughter too.
Why do you need the help of volunteers for the organisation?
We need volunteers to help out at basketball, gym and swimming training. Most of all, we are in dire need of basketball trainers for our youngest players on Monday evenings from 6.15 pm to 7.15 pm, as a few of our volunteers have left Luxembourg for universities abroad. Volunteers are welcome anytime, either taking part in regular sport activities or participating to single events. Events usually are published on our website under “agenda”.
What do you think ZAK means to those young people who benefit from the organisation?
ZAK means a lot to them, many call us their “second family”. But I think this question is best answered by our young members themselves!
What kind of impact does ZAK have on disabled people in Luxembourg – is there anything else like it?
No, there isn’t another organisation working like ZAK, other organisations are working with disabled people only. So I think we are quite unique!
Are there any restrictions on volunteering for ZAK, such as language barriers, physical ability, understanding of disability etc – or can you literally benefit from anyone stepping forward to volunteer their time?
In fact, we can benefit from every volunteer as long as she or he is able and willing to cope with our sometimes “unpredictable” members. Some physical fitness is of course required for the sports activities, and understanding of disability is helpful. There are no language barriers, we always manage to communicate.
Can you describe a ZAK event that Serve the City has made a difference at – and how we made a difference?
Serve the City has been very helpful on our big anniversary basketball tournament in September 2015. Manuel & friends did a great job!
If you want to join us when we go to the basketball trainings with ZAK, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by Julia Warsap