A New Step in the Work Therapy Program

The temperature is well below freezing, single digits (on the Fahrenheit thermometer), as Zsolt crunches through the packed frozen snow from the Bonus Pastor Therapy Center to the nearby Work Therapy Workshop. Although it is 7:00 am the sun has not yet risen over the secluded valley that holds a tiny village and the Bonus Pastor Therapy Center Campus tucked into the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Zsolt reaches the door of the workshop, removes the padlock and goes in to start the wood stove; it’s his responsibility this week to start the fire in the morning. It is nearly three hours before a group of Therapy Center residents will begin their daily work, but it will take that amount of time for the wood stove to slowly drive the temperature in the workshop above freezing.

After breakfast, followed by the morning therapy meeting, and a cleaning of “the house” (Therapy Center), the residents proceed to their work assignments for the day. During the morning meeting another resident who is the work supervisor for the week has given each resident their job for the day. This week Zsolt has been assigned to the workshop along with four other men who are also seeking rescue and recovery from addiction. He reports to the workshop on time and learns what he will be doing for the day from another resident who is the Project Supervisor. He settles into the work, tracing and cutting out of thin wood the profile of a shepherd carrying a lamb. This is the logo of the Bonus Pastor (Good Shepherd) Foundation and will be used to create small candle holders that can be sold or given to supporters. Several times during the morning work hours volunteer staff member and Work Therapy Program Coordinator, Kyle, is seen in the workshop. He is observing the quality and pace of the work, the interaction of the residents, how the project supervisor is managing the project. He stops to talk with Zsolt, who speaks in broken English and Kyle in broken Hungarian. In this way they are able to have a complete conversation. Kyle asks how the work is going, and makes some suggestions for improved efficiency, and affirms the quality of what is being done. He speaks with the project supervisor and reminds him that he will need to submit a list of materials and tools needed for the workshop by the end of the day; giving time for Kyle to review the list and then make the purchases when he is working at the office in the city the next day.

There is a place for everyone in the work. Some are working with power tools, some are working with hand tools, some finishing up the sanding work by hand, others using wood burners to burn the design onto the project, still others cleaning up the shop. The point here is not primarily to produce product for sale, but to immerse the residents in as close to a real-life scenario as can be simulated in this safe controlled environment, giving them the opportunity to practice and exercise the principles that they have learned in the Therapy Seminars. The work is scheduled daily for the morning hours only. After lunch the residents, a counseling staff member who is on duty, and Kyle take part in a meeting to review the work. The residents go around the room, taking turns, telling where they worked, and giving marks from 1-10 for individual motivation and work quality. When the group is strong there is much that can be gleaned from this meeting. Participants can map the effects of their motivation in the work, think through how to evaluate their work, they can exercise problem solving skills, conflict resolution in the work place, or learn to be on time, to be consistent in the quality of their work despite their fluctuations in motivations, etc. When the group is weak, Kyle and the counseling staff draw the lessons out of them. It can be a painfully slow process. One man says, “I worked in the kitchen. Motivation 10, work 10.” Kyle stops the group before it moves on to the next resident, “You haven’t told us anything that we are interested in. Either you are not in touch with what made it a ’10/10’ day for you, or you do not value that information or the group enough to share it. So, I want to know from you why you think it was a ’10/10’ day. What made it that way?” The resident responds, “Joco, who was also in the same group in the kitchen with me, already said why it was a ’10/10’ day.” Kyle responds again, “Yes, I understand what Joco said, but I want to hear it from you. What made it a ’10,10’ day for you? There is no way that you have the exact same answer as Joco in details. Tell me how it was for you.”

We’re teaching the residents how to communicate. How to evaluate themselves, how to view others. These skills that have a foundation in biblical truth: we were made for work, we were made to bless others and we can do that through our work. Our work well done gives us a dignity. Humility affects our ability to learn new skills, to settle conflicts with others. One of our biggest challenges is to create simulated real life scenarios where the residents can exercise what they are learning, turning theory into life skills, and we can observe and offer feedback so they can excel and succeed at those skills. That is part of the reason that we have started this new workshop initiative where the residents have to function under a peer supervisor, their quality of work has to be up to standard, they have responsibilities within the work. Because they are producing something, creating something in a way that enables them to feel that they are useful. They have work to do and it has a purpose. Really this project is an experiment. The hardest part is to actually market the products in an economically depressed country, with a dwindling population. We are hoping to establish some consignment agreements with local stores, and also sell the product at local fairs and events. If the program breaks even financially we will be happy, if it helps sustain the Therapy Center we will be thrilled, but the main goal is to create an environment where the theory of the therapy is applied, exercised and turned into life skills.