Movement For Improvement



Our fifth day in Belgium

Today, our journey led us to the city of Geel, where we met with Jozef Goebels from ADR -Vlaanderen (+32 14 40 31 63, who also came to visit us in the past.

Along with him, we rented bikes for our group and pedaled to the De Bogaard youth center. The presentation of the place was held by an employee who has actually been connected to this center since she was five years old, so, as she also said, she spent most of her life there.

Geel turned out to be a completely fascinating city, being accredited by UNESCO as a “Child Friendly City”. This means that this is an extremely safe place, and not only that, for there are three main conditions for it to be called so: increased mobility, the well-being of the children and the opportunities they have, to get involved in the life of their city. Some examples that show how much Geel deserves this title are: the websites where you can find information about places where you can go if you want to do therapy or where you can even schedule an online meeting with a professional psychologist, the safe and close together playgrounds, the green and quiet parks ans, above all, the continuous collaboration between the authorities and the youth community. Furthermore, we were told that there are special police officers in Geel whose role is to stay close to the children and gain their trust, so that if there are any problems, they would feel safe with them and ask for help.

De Bogaard Youth Center is an incredible place that surprised us in the most pleasant ways. Its yard is huge and in different sections of it there are places set up for animals, where children from different schools come to learn how to take care of them. There is also a large playground and places where children can play sports, a skating park and a building dedicated only to the well-being of young people. There, they can come to relax, to learn when they need some quiet or to talk to a therapist about their well-being, if they feel the need to do so.

The Youth Center and its team organiza a lot of projects and collaborate with other organizations of this type and also with the city hall. Without the support of the local authorities, all those projects, including practical things such as presentations on the influence of drugs held by the police, could not be carried out. It is very important for the people of Geel to also ask the opinion of the young people about the decisions related to the city, as they are an important part of it.

After having lunch and spending some time at the playground, we set off on our bikes again, this time to stop  at Saint Jozif Green School in Geel

Green Schools are schools that focus entirely on subjects related to nature and their specializations include: biotechnics, agriculture, mechanics, carpentry and, the most popular amongst them, animal care. All these specializations have a practical part, but also theoretical courses, which usually include mathematics and sciences. At the beginning of the visit, we were given a presentation of the school, where we received more details about the education system in Belgium, and one of the teachers from the school spoke to us about the sustainability projects in which students are involved and about how sustainable education classes are mandatory for all students, regardless of their major. One of the most interesting projects we learned about consisted of several tasks that students choose at the beginning of the year and have to complete in a certain amount of time. If by the end of the year they take it upon themselves to ensure that waste is properly sorted in a certain area of the city and the results are favorable, at the end of the program they will receive financial support from the municipality to make improvements in their school.

Next, we visited the school and even had the opportunity to meet some of the animals that are in the students’ care. It was a unique experience, since in our country this concept, for a school does not exist, but the spaces where the animals live were even larger than required by law. It was explained to us that since they teach classes on animal care, it is only natural that they think more carefully about their needs and that if they do need help, there are vets they work with to make sure of that even more

Finally, we said goodbye to everyone who facilitated this experience and thanked them for the unique moments from today. We hope that the information gathered will facilitate the creation of such places in our country as well, because they emanate a very beautiful and hopeful atmosphere.