Our explorations of best practices to bring back people to the labour market continued in September in Belgium. We visited the relatively small German-speaking part of the country, next to the border to Germany. Our host in the city of Eupen was Liliane Mreyen, Volkshochschule Bildungsinstitut (Adult Education Institute).
This time members of the Finnish team were Susanna Hjulberg special education teacher and Tiia Ollikainen coach (Spesia Vocational School), and Experience Workshop’s CEO Nora Somlyody.
First we encountered Bianca Croé, the founder of the Viertelhaus Cradijn, a multicultural community gathering place. Here immigrants receive help to learn local language(s) – thus German and French mainly -, to get a job or to update their driving licence. There is child care available, colourful events, courses and all range of activities realized by local volunteers and participants. The house was severely damaged by the flood a year ago, so the organisation itself is in a need of help.
Our next stop was Ideenreich (meaning “full of ideas”), a location giving home to several initiatives: a store offering plenty of nice arts and crafts, a social restaurant and day care center “Garnstock”. The goal of the center Garnstock is to support the employment of persons with disabilities and job seekers with complex difficulties.
Die Alternative is a 30-year-old initiative which goes back to the closing down of a sewing factory. The initiative originally helped unemployed seamstresses to find work again in the field of sewing or housekeeping. Die Alternative is currently a sewing-, ironing- and cleaning centre operating in a large hall.
Luckily enough, the rain stopped pouring by the time we arrived at the High Fens Nature Reserve, a wonderful place with a special flora and fauna (which is less special for those who know Finnish nature though). A walk through the mossy, wet landscape covered by blueberry, and the visit to the Museum of the High Fens uncovered the history of the landscape. Once it hid rich layers of turf, which was extracted by locals for heating purposes, later on Belgium’s and Germany’s shifting borders has affected the environment to a large extent. (That’s the point of departure of many stories here. This German speaking region became part of Belgium due to the Treaty of Versaille, later in 1940 Hitler annexed it, then after the 2nd world war it became part of Belgium again.)
The next visit (again in pouring rain) was to the production site of the BISA social enterprise. They gather green waste from gardens, streets and parks and recycle it for gardening / heating etc. purposes. BISA has 8000 contract customers weekly within a 30 kilometer radius of the location.
We’ve seen also three of INTEGO‘s project sites: the creativity workshop on Katharinenweg, the wood and metal workshop Unterstadt Eupen and the garden Alter Schlachthof. All these places provide people with easy-access work experience.
Erasmus+ CORE RElief
(COmplex Reintegration of Employees with changed working abilities to REal LiFe)
TENENET o.z. – Slovakia (coordinator)
Asociacija “Iniciatyvu tinklas” – Lithuania
Experience Workshop ay – Finland
Nevelok Haza Egyesulet – Hungary
Volkshochschule Bildungsinstitut – Belgium
Asociación para el Estudio y Promoción del Bienestar Social – Spain