Local Goal Getter Paula Marianne Pfeifer co-founder of Athos-Eet-Maakt-Doet, the real social label

For this week’s Local Goal Getter, we interviewed Paula Marianne Pfeifer, an inspiring individual who co-founded Athos-Eet-Maakt-Doet. 7 years ago, Paula first walked into Athos, when it used to operate as a part of Stichting Radar. She and 3 others helped transform the recreational program of Stichting Radar into a place with open facilities, where people could make a durable start by working on their personal passions, with paid work as a final destination.

From daycare to self-reliance 

Athos was established by answering a series of questions of how it might be done differently, considering a recreational program does not look at the capabilities and needs of each member individually. Gradually, these questions were answered, which is why Athos has now become a separate Ltd. They believe in the marketability of their product. Athos is a place where you are encouraged to take social responsibility, something that is easily said, and yet they implement it thoroughly. 

People care, earth care, but everything with a fair share.

Thought and consideration have been given to the design of Athos, in order that it incorporates both humanity and the planet’s needs. The real social label accentuates the fact that they make it a reality.

Athos was developed for a community, with a focus on people with a distance from the labour market, in the broadest sense of these words. In 6 years, the enterprise has grown from a small inclusive target group to everyone who wants to be connected through passion and talent. The enterprise includes people from 32 different walks of life, with the youngest being 16 and the oldest 97, which is ultimately a reflection of the society we live in outside of these four walls. The target group of Athos is their neighbourhood, they are continuously embedding themselves in local businesses, and are therefore working closely with entrepreneurs in and around Maastricht. This includes Makers van Maastricht, which works out of a love of craftsmanship from local entrepreneurs. We approach the Maastricht area in different ways, but first of all, as a customer, people can taste what the location has to offer.

A successful method

The system was not initially made for a firm like Athos, but they were not working from that perspective. Structures should be designed to simplify matters in order to make them fair and well managed. Although these values are well-meant, the current framework has not served this principle for a while. Athos brings what is appropriate to these times, motivating people intrinsically. Their aim is to make social participation more fluid, and therefore work from a people-oriented point of view. Ultimately, a system must serve the people, and not the other way around. 

The way in which we operate is on a basis of substance, the structure can always be shaped.

A critical look at the prevailing system through the construction of a company is not something that people are necessarily used to. Over time, it has naturally become easier to work with a formula that you have to go around, nevertheless, you always continue to run into something. The systematic change was and is the biggest challenge Athos and Paula face. This methodology works, and hopefully in the future we can on a larger scale work on the grounds of human principles.

Let people be who they choose to be

One of Paula’s fundamental motives is that every human being should be seen simply for who they are, regardless of where they come from. It would be unfair to be offered more opportunities and start to differentiate, yet it often happens. 

“I find it irrational that I am offered more opportunities in this life just because I was born a white person in Western Europe and someone who has almost identical experiences and knowledge as me but is born in the other hemisphere may not be”.

On top of that, she likes to see the best in people and sometimes does so because people do not always recognize this in themselves. People are often more capable than what they think themselves to be. Every day she looks back on this with a fulfilled sense of purpose, especially when she actively sees people being able to do what they want to achieve. In this regard, the quality of this feeling is important and not the quantity. Needless to say, carrying out a job in a large festival is impressive, but she gets the same feeling with 15 people going through an authentic experience or to see an individual advance to a place where they engage in sustainable work.

Dream catchers

One of Paula’s personal favorite examples of a chased dream involves Shelly, a young man from Damascus, who has been made to flee Syria, has ended up in Europe. An intelligent person who has found himself in a situation where society does not understand him in a multitude of fields. 

When everything is strange, new and unfamiliar, you can end up in a spiral, and Athos is a place where you can break that cycle. 

Despite his situation, he wanted to continue the furniture-making business, which his family once had, on his own terms by taking a piece of history with him. Shelly was eager to pursue his dream, and succeeded in doing just that, by producing lamps made from Athos machinery with a moving life story attached to it.

Curious about their commitment

Take a look at the website of the Athos: Athos-Eet-Maakt-Doet 

Author: Jo-Anne Jaegermann

Pictures: Jo-Anne Jaegermann