Not a ghettoization but a desirable cohabitation, by Panos Tsakonis
The thing that surprised me the most during my Erasmus+ trip to Bergen-op-Zoom was a small place called Lambertijnenhof, a neighborhood where disabled people were being treated like they properly deserve. They all live side by sideas members of the same community and they all have full time health care, next to their homes ( 5-6 of them live together in houses built for them). In the centre of the district there is a main building which is composed of teaching classes, playrooms and workshops for them.
This neighborhood is one of a kind, but it looks so normal, as everyone passes through it in order to go to their work or to the centre of BoZ. The residents of Lambertijnenhof have easy access to the centre of the town by bus and are just 100m away from the nearest supermarket.
It is also important to mention that some of them work. As I saw, the social inclusion of disabled people in The Netherlands is going positively and successfully. (More and more places like Downies and Brownies are being made). To be honest, when I explained the whole system to some friends and teachers, I was asked the following question “Isn’t this some kind of ghettoization?”. The answer to this question is NO. Maybe it seems like that, when I am describing it, probably because the majesty of it can’t be conveyed through words, but rather through emotions and actions.
Once a very important person to me said ‘If you can’t express yourself and your thoughts through words, do it through actions, sometimes they are more powerful and they will be remembered forever!’. Lambertijnenhof IS action, not words. It is acceptance and equity in real world. That’s what WE HAVE to DO.
Such visits to places like Lambertijnenhof teach us that being in the EU shouldn’t be (and I hope it’s not) a typicality for economical, financial, military and political reasons. It is about creating the European citizen’s identity according to humanistic values. Based on these values the EU citizenship is being created step by step through Erasmus programs, the power of youth and our voice. A better society will be created only by adding different parts from each and everyone to form the future puzzle of our EU identity.
Embracing diversity and fostering friendships in Bergen-op-Zoom, by Maro Avramakou and Kyriaki Lampidi
This year Erasmus+ experience in Bergen op Zoom, in the Netherlands, will be unforgettable. We got to meet many students from different countries and learn about each others’ culture, language, traditions etc. That way we expanded our knowledge towards other nationalities, were engaged in conversations and made new friends. We also got to know the daily life of a normal Dutch family as well as a student’s school life and notice the differences or similarities between our country’s habits, routines and building facilities too. The scenery in the Netherlands is stunning! Every city we visited had a beautiful green view, full of trees, parks and flowers and also an outstanding sight like the Delta or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The weather was very relaxing and chill despite the frequent rain. Every place we went to had something new to offer to us. We were extremely touched by our visit to Lambertijnenhof where we got to meet mentally and physically disabled people and spend the day with them doing activities, like sports or games. Overall we would definitely recommend to other students to participate in the Erasmus+ program and pay a visit in the Netherlands in the future!!!
Inclusion in action, by Anna Papadopoulou
My experience during the ERASMUS+ ARCH exchange was very unique. I strongly believe that this project gave us a lot of knowledge and above all friendship. We had the opportunity to live and taste a lifestyle very different than the one we are used to. Leaving in the Netherlands for 5 days was a bit challenging and exciting at the same time. We had to adapt to the daily life of our Dutch hosts and also to collect all the information and knowledge that was needed for our stay. The Netherlands is a country very well-organized and modern. You feel so welcome and accepted, despite your own uniqueness. This is why I believe that in this ERASMUS+ project the spirit was different. The bond between the students grew very strong and deep. We were all tied as punch and this is the purpose of this programme, to exclude the exclusion, and we did it, we defeated this unhuman behaviour and we accepted everyone for their personal and cultural diversity.