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50 years - Audio Services for the Blind at "Stimme der Hoffnung"

Alsbach/Darmstadt, Germany [APD, SdH, CD EUDNews]. October 14, 2014. APD Employees at the Library for the Blind celebrate 50 years of activity at the "Voice of Hope", a Seventh-day Adventist Church media center. They have been lending free audio books

50 years - Audio Services for the Blind at "Stimme der Hoffnung"

The Media Center in Darmstadt


Alsbach/Darmstadt, Germany [APD, SdH, CD EUDNews]. October 14, 2014.

APD Employees at the Library for the Blind celebrate 50 years of activity at the "Voice of Hope", a Seventh-day Adventist Church media center. They have been lending free audio books since 1964. Today, the volunteer staff at the Library based in Alsbach, Darmstadt annually sends out 24,000 CDs and 6,000 cassettes to 2,430 listeners in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and overseas.

From the very beginning the central theme of the literature available has always been Christian. "This is highly appreciated by our listeners, even by those who don't belong to any church," declared Pastor Andre Thäder, head of the Library for the Blind. When CDs were primarily recorded for the blind in DAISY format, Audio CDs and audio cassettes, they would mainly be used by the elderly or the physically disabled. The Library for the Blind is inter-denominational because the listeners come from all churches and denominations.

To keep in touch with the people and maintain a level of proficiency, the Library for the Blind organizes annual events. These include days for regional meetings and leisure time for the blind on behalf of the Adventist-welfare work. The members of the following organizations also promote activity and help for the visually impaired at the Library for the Blind: the "media society for blind and visually impaired e.V." (Medibus) and co-operation with the regional "Blind and Visually Impaired in Hessen" (State Office and District Group Darmstadt-South Hesse), the "Pastoral care for the Blind of the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau "and care for the elderly in the city of Darmstadt.

It started with a tape

As early as 1953 Pastor Tristan Böttcher started reading Adventist literature on tape, to a blind member of his local church. Soon others were added. Even when he went into early retirement in 1962, he continued from his residence. The project became so popular but eventually turned out to be too much for him and had to give it up. The task was first taken over in 1966 by the Central European Church of Seventh-day Adventists in Darmstadt, then in 1970 by the small studio of the radio "Voice of Hope".

1964 - Official launch in East Germany

At the same time, a similar service was started in the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, the former eastern communist Germany). Pastors started tape-recording magazines and books for their parishioners. Pastor Manfred Böttcher, Tristan Böttcher's son, was President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the DDR.He supported the idea of creating a centre for the Blind and Hearing-impaired in Friedensau near Magdeburg, using the high image already existing at the location. On October 12, 1964, the official decision was taken by the church, and the Library for the Blind has now been there for 50 years. Pastor Hermann Kobs took over the management of the service.

Already in 1963 the Adventists supported "Blind Association services" in Basel, now the head office is in Zug, Switzerland, offering Christian literature in braille, thus appealing to a different audience. To date, there is a close partnership between the two community services in Germany and Switzerland, as reported by Andre Thäder.

In 1987, the Audio Service was set as an official department of the media centre "Voice of Hope" in Darmstadt. Pastor Helmut Kraus was responsible for this service.. Before that, employees recorded, copied and did extensive posting and shipping. Prior to that, students of the nearby Adventist School Marienhohe used to come and read books and magazines.

Tapes were sent from both Friedensau and Darmstadt to a growing audience. Starting in 1981, Friedensau also offered two-week retreats for the Blind and Visually-impaired. It was an idea that was implemented in 1988 for the Federal Republic listening audience. The turn of events in 1989 and the subsequent merger of the talking-book libraries in 1992 brought people together from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

A great work with a small team

A total of 125 community services were in operation from 1976 to 2011, in Darmstadt and later at the new location in Alsbach and an important part of the team, emphasized Pastor Andre J. Thäder, leader of the Library for the Blind since 2006. Meanwhile, technology has changed, from tape to cassette, to CD's. Meanwhile, many listeners have been using the current DAISY CD's. This technique notably facilitates listening to long books or subscriptions with many articles.

Currently, the team consists of a full-time head of department, a clerk with multiple tasks in other areas of the media center, a sound engineer with a half-time position, two readers with ten hours/week, who also help with shipping when needed. Three lady volunteers, each for one morning per week, help with the recordings. This small team currently distributes more than 500 book titles and regularly sends out eleven magazine subscriptions to 2,430 listeners.

Additional Services

In addition to its own productions and assistance offered to the Blind in Darmstadt, it provided services for other facilities, confirmed Thäder. This started in September 1988 with copying and shipping for the city of Darmstadt. The info-cassette "Darmstadt update" was created weekly by the Darmstadt tape recorders and stereo friends, then copied at the Library and sent off. Since July 2001 there has been a similar service with the quarterly publication "Together" of the German Blind Darmstadt/Südhessen regional group. From December 2002 to July 2013, the bi-monthly edition of "Hessen Echo" was added for the Blind and Visually Impaired. For the partially sighted and blind pastoral care of the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau three to four spoken newsletters have been copied annually since 2005.

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Pictures: 1. 1983,Gunda Jacks in the 'Blindenhörbücherei', Darmstadt.

2. An employee in 1969.

3. Pastor Andre J. Thäder, responsible for the Library for the Blind since 2006.