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The Martinshof gardeners at Jacobs University: Work with a purpose

Christoph Wuppenhaas (left) is the group leader of the unit from Martinshof on the Jacobs University campus, of which Miriam Kuik (center) and Björn Kedzierski are a part. (Source: Jacobs University)


October 15, 2020

The green campus of Jacobs University Bremen measures 34 hectares. The campus university in the North of Bremen receives active support in care and management of this property from the employees of “Werkstatt Bremen Martinshof”, an employer for people with disabilities. In all weathers, they can be seen on the campus grounds mowing lawns, raking leaves and removing weeds. But maintaining the green spaces is not the only purpose of the cooperation between Jacobs University and Martinshof, which has existed since 2007. It is primarily about working with people. 
“Werkstatt Bremen Martinshof” is one of several external service providers which make up more than 150 employees who enrich and support life and work on the campus of the international university. "Anything up to five meters high that has to do with botany – that's our job," explains Christoph Wuppenhaas, group leader of the unit from Martinshof on the Jacobs University campus. 18 people with disabilities from the north of Bremen, divided into two groups, normally work on the campus. At the moment, however, there are only 13 of them due to Corona. 
The Martinshof team also includes Miriam Kuik and Björn Kedzierski. 25-year-old Miriam Kuik is one of the youngest members of the team and has been with the group since 2012. She successfully completed a 2-year training at Martinshof. During this time, she was able to look at several fields of activity and was free to decide in which area she wanted to work. For her it was clear: "I like the work outside best". Björn Kedzierski also thinks: "I like the environment and the material we work with here. And the group is nice." Another bonus for the 48-year-old: "The food in the canteen". The trained carpenter has been part of the Martinshof team on the university campus since 2007 and is one of the senior staff members. 
In addition, both of them enjoy the fact that they can be creatively active on campus. For example, the team builds new paths or has redesigned the barbecue place for students. Christoph Wuppenhaas is responsible for the design and his team works together with him to implement it. "That kind of work actually corresponds more to my profession. I am not so much the lawn mowing type," says the trained landscape gardener with a smile. 
However, the main goal of the Martinshof group is not the gardening work. "We work with people and have a teaching mission,” describes Christoph Wuppenhaas. "That is the part of the work that is invisible to the outside. The 45-year-old is the interface between Jacobs University and “Werkstatt Bremen Martinshof”. He has been leading the groups together with another colleague since 2009. Before that he was self-employed as a gardener for a long time. The desire for professional change led him to Jacobs University. The prerequisite for the job was a training as a specialist for the work in workshops for people with disabilities. 
"It is very important for me that this is a job with a purpose. I find pointless tasks like pulling weeds gruesome," says Christoph Wuppenhaas laughing. 
"The respect and recognition we receive from all sides at Jacobs University is something we value in this place of work," Wuppenhaas says. For him, this is a very important aspect of the work. "Our employees often have the feeling that they are not as good at things as others. But that is not true," Wuppenhaas believes. "My goal is for them to be taken seriously and for them to take themselves seriously. They should experience that they can achieve a lot in their group, which others might not be able to. 
A highlight for the group was the receipt of the "IUB Rocks Community Award" in 2018. “We were absolutely thrilled about that," Wuppenhaas recalls. The IUB Rocks Award is presented to members of the wider Jacobs community for their outstanding contribution to the growth and development of the university. The Martinshof group received the award for their creative solutions to often unknown, invisible landscaping challenges, as well as for their contribution to social inclusion through the employment of mentally and physically challenged people. 
"We can’t imagine our campus without Martinshof," expresses Jens V. Dünnbier, Head of Campus Operations at Jacobs University. "We appreciate the great physical effort that the Martinshof team puts in during all weathers and are very grateful for our continuously well-maintained campus.”   
This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs", in which Jacobs University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff. Further episodes can be found at