Path towards inclusion

Author: Greet Jans

2011 was declared as the European Year of the volunteer and therefore among others lately a lot of attention is given to the European Voluntary Service-program (EVS) from the European Commission. EVS is getting more and more known and strives to give youngsters the chance to develop themselves personally and professionally by volunteering abroad. Mostly participants in voluntary projects are well-educated and have a good socio-economical situation. What about those who are not?

EVS is part of the Youth in Action program (YiA) of the European Commission which aims on creating a sense of active citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among European youngsters. YiA claims to be in favor of all young people regardless of their educational, social and cultural background. In this framework, social inclusion is also mentioned as one of the main objectives. Nevertheless situations where EVS is used by vulnerable target groups are not that well known or widespread. Luckily there are some who try to change this and let everyone benefit of this easy accessible framework for volunteering. One of them is Henk Persyn.

Finding self-confidence

Henk Persyn, Belgian 41 years old, calls since 7 years Ljubljana his home and is one of the leading forces behind Zavod Manipura. Next to this, he also works as a part-time trainer regularly for “Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities within the European YOUTH program“ (SALTO-Youth) and Salto-Inclusion resource center. He explains that the chakra Manipura, which is considered as the centre of dynamism, energy, willpower and achievement, stands for the force inside you. And that is exactly what Zavod Manipura is basing its functioning on. This institute for advice and creative work with young people and families is a Slovenian organization which strongly believes in the good inside every one of us and therefore wants to give a chance to youngsters to help to find their self again through voluntary work. The organization works closely together with Wingerdbloei, a Belgian counseling center for youngsters who ended up in special youth care. One of the methodologies they use is so-called “displacement”. The youngster is taken out of his usual surrounding and placed in a new environment, which can help him to regain self-confidence and reintegrate into society. For several years now, Wingerdbloei cooperates with Zavod Manipura to send their youngsters on short-term EVS on ecological farms in Slovenia and thereby giving them a chance not only to do community work but in the same time to learn about themselves and gain new skills.

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