Pole handicap

La rencontre entre le monde de l'handicap et le volontariat international

The Pôle Handicap brings non-profit organisations together which are approved by public authorities and which convey common values. Those organisations, l’Arche, Accueil & Vie and Renaissance, shelter people with physical or mental disabilities.

The Pôle handicap was founded in 2015 in order to gather organisations which share the same values and practices while receiving an outside look from the volunteers who come to meet our needs. Indeed, the way we join our forces allows us to help each other when it comes to administration, human resources and educational methods. This way, we can foster the relationship between volunteers and people with disabilities.

The Pôle Handicap is supported by the non-profit organisation Service Volontaire International that was recognised as a Youth Organisation by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in 2015. The SVI is the coordinating organisation of the Pôle Handicap, as it experiences interculturality first-hand through its active commitment in local and international exchanges such as volunteering.

As a coordinating organisation, the SVI wishes to encourage young people to become citizens of the world who are active, critical and responsible as well as ethically and socially aware.

Volunteers are required to participate in the projects set up by the organisations which are part of the Pôle handicap while benefiting from a professional and benevolent guidance.

Our encounter came true thanks to the common values we share such as respect. These values are especially shared within the fields of voluntary work and disability, both full of contrast and differences.

We share a common vision and are truly dedicated when it comes to people with disabilities. Indeed, they are our major concern.

Everyone participates actively in our project, whether volunteers, professionals or hosted people. Thus, we promote integration for everybody by getting people to embrace difference since we consider it as enriching. We try to make it possible for volunteers and disabled people to get to know each other by making volunteers aware of the fact that difference is what characterises each and every one of us.

We believe it is truly important that every person involved in the project is open minded and ready to meet different people.

Since we encourage people to be open-minded and to get to know others, we are convinced that this link can pave the way for societal development as it encourages solidarity and mutual assistance, which are both vital nowadays.

As our society is constantly changing, we have to move forward together and share our values as well as our professional skills. We want to refocus on human experience and on the encounter between people in all its forms and through diverse realities. We believe they can change the world today and in the future.

By hosting international volunteers, the Pôle Handicap wants to improve its practices by expanding internationally and by opening up to different outlooks on disability and disabled people.

Our philosophy is based on the following principle: welcoming and accepting everybody as they are, in all their differences and unique features. Every single person is at the heart of our project, regardless of his backgrounds, abilities or disabilities, cultures or beliefs.

Our project is based on two-way relationships which value mutual respect among all participants: people with disabilities, volunteers and professionals. Our approach involves “being with” the disabled people and “assisting them” in the activities instead of “doing it for them”. We offer a professional framework within a family environment.  The volunteer will have the opportunity to learn about the daily life of disabled people and the Belgian approach to disability.

The Pôle Handicap values the full and entire participation of the disabled people, of the professionals who take care of them and of volunteers in a spirit of solidarity and mutual assistance. Everyone assists people with disabilities in their individual projects in order to help them find a place in society and feel entirely fulfilled without forgetting to treat other people with respect and kindness.

We believe that volunteering is a life, learning and non-formal education experience. Volunteers’ previous experiences, know-how and soft skills will be highlighted to help them get involved and develop their projects while working closely with professionals.  Volunteers will contribute fully to the organisation’s projects. They will be able to bring new perspectives, ask questions always in a helpful way and encourage reflection. We strive to guide volunteers on their way towards becoming critical and responsible citizens, ready to help others.

Volunteers need to be trained to be able to take part in a project managed by the Pôle Handicap, and this prior to departure but also throughout the duration of the project. To do so, collective trainings are set up and each volunteer is given individual support tailored to their needs.

These training sessions are carried out throughout the year and can be broken down into several steps:

  • The first session gives volunteers the opportunity to meet their fellow volunteers and to learn how to fit in Belgian society and in the project.
  • The next one deals with the way volunteers perceive their experience and their integration within the project. We consider it important for volunteers to understand the different types of disabilities. We also try to determine how volunteers can overcome the difficulties they will be facing.
  • Finally, the last training session focuses on the assessment of each volunteer’s project. We ask ourselves how they were able to overcome their fears and difficulties. We try to see what they learnt during their volunteering project and how they could reuse or highlight their professional and personal voluntary work experiences in the future.

The organisations of the Pôle Handicap are continuously looking for improvement in order to complete better volunteer support. The Pôle Handicap allows its member organisations to think about the best way to welcome volunteers and make them fit in within their very particular structures. The Pôle Handicap also enables the organisations to share their skills and experiences beyond the benefits it brings such as personal development, deeper human relations and better volunteering skills.

Being a volunteer does not only mean dedicating time to people and to a project. It also consists in meeting other people, learning about a country and its culture. That is the reason why the member organisations of the Pôle Handicap find it important to create a friendly atmosphere whenever volunteers meet and this, by organising intercultural parties or through events outside the project.

The organisations which are parts of the Pôle Handicap regularly meet to bring new ideas, to make it move forward and to expand it through several projects.

Our goal is to expand the Pôle Handicap in the years to come through regular meetings in the form of assessments and reports.

We consider that it is crucial to create an efficient and effective communication between volunteers, people with disabilities and professionals.  The regular meetings organised between the members of the Pôle Handicap reflect our desire to pass on information and to exchange best practices.