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ICC 2017

From the 23rd of July to the 1st of August, the youth hostel De Blauwput and the Electro-technical Department of KU Leuven (ESAT) were invaded by a swarm of youngsters from different cultures, languages and backgrounds. A very pleasant invasion, though: 63 visually impaired young people ( between 16 and 21 years old) and about 45 staff members, from 13 European Countries and Japan!

Almost every morning, people were transferred to ESAT, where workshops took place until 5 PM. Though the building was pretty complicated (countless corridors, flights of stairs and doors), tactile maps and talking clay animals and gnomes made the navigation much easier: roosters would warn you when you were at the stairs, and whistling gnomes would greet you when you got to the toilet' doors. Some of them didn't make it to the end of the camp, that's true, but they served their purpose amazingly and will be remembered with great respect. Someone else (a real human this time) who deserves the greatest respect is professor Jan Engelen: it was thanks to his unwavering support of ICC Belgium's cause that workshops could be held in this prestigious building.

Participants could choose from a wide range of subjects: browsing the Web, using a MacBook, cooking, writing a powerful CV, accessible Maths, self-defense, first-aid in case of fire... and so much more. Though the schedule was quite busy, at the end of the workshop day everyone got back on the bus with a lot of enthusiasm and new acquired knowledge.

Leisure activities, too, were a great source of enjoyment for participants: ranging from archery to wine tasting, from blind football to karaoke, they definitely enabled people to get closer to each other and to discover hobbies they had never thought about. For example, numerous amazing singers and players were found during the karaoke and jam sessions, and many people fell in love with the Shiatsu massage.

Whether they stayed there after dinner, or got back there after leisure activities, people had a great time at the youth hostel: the 3-storey building was very easy to navigate (also thanks to the Braille labels added to every door), the atmosphere cosy and teeming with laughter, joy and multiculturalism. The bar, which stayed open until 1 AM, was always full (after all, everyone had to try Belgian beer!) and the terrace was very popular, not only for the smokers.

The excursion day in Brussels, which took place halfway through the camp, was a great opportunity for everybody to do something different and have a closer look to the capital of the European Union. And it was to the European Parliament, one of the main engines of our politics, that the morning was dedicated: a very young and inspiring British MEP, Judy Kirton-Darling, answered participants' questions with liveliness and sagacity, and the visit ended with a group picture in the plenary chamber. The afternoon's leisure activities, which ranged from walking tours to different museums, were also welcomed with enthusiasm, not to mention the evening barbecue!

Another highlight of the camp was definitely the "Window to the World", when ICC opened its doors to the outside world: sponsors, journalists, blind-related stakeholders, etc. Two very special guests, MEP Helga Stevens and KU leuven's Vice-Chancellor Katlijn Malfliet, addressed the morning assembly, and the day continued with other surprises: guests got the chance to attend an awareness-raising session about blindness and to visit workshops. The one about echolocation, in particular, conducted by Thomas Tajo,, was an endless source of enthusiasm and wonder for all those present. Many thanks to Thomas for agreeing to come to Leuven! Another word of thanks goes to the Legioen Film crew, which filmed for the whole day, not only in ESAT but also at the Blauwput and in other locations, to capture a glimpse of some of the leisure activities.

The farewell dinner, held at the Provinciehuis, was the perfect ending to 10 unforgettable days: inspiring speeches, nice performances and great enthusiasm for the future. For those who didn't go back to the hostel, the evening continued at Cafè Sport, where people danced to the deejay set of Anthony Reyers, member of ICC Belgium.

ICC 2017 was a dream come true. The dream of former visually impaired participants, who loved their experience so much that they wanted to set up their own delegation, and bring the camp to Belgium. Their enthusiasm was so contagious, that many others embraced the cause. Some of them are also part of ICC Belgium today, and have contributed to the success of the camp. Others, like the Lion CLUb, have supported ICC Belgium financially throughout the years: without their extremely generous support, ICC 2017 would not have been possible. Others, inspired by the cause, decided to become volunteers: they guided participants through the maze of corridors in ESAT, helped with leisure activities and were always ready at hand at the Blauwput. Their enthusiasm and commitment undoubtedly contributed to the success of the camp.