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Tiffany's job shadowing in Liège

I got the wonderful opportunity to do a job shadowing from 02-05 to 02-06 in the cool city of Liège in Belgium, at a well-known international organization, VIEWS International, which stands for Visually Impaired Education and Work Support International.

This job shadowing was part of a larger project called “Strength through Solidarity”, a capacity-building project between 8 partner organizations from Europe (Poland, Germany and Belgium), South America (Brazil), Africa (Uganda) and South East Asia (India and Thailand). “Strength through Solidarity” aims to gather experiences and good practices from different associations around the globe, in order to create an online platform with e-courses for associations, youth workers or individuals who want to know more about youth work or about how to improve their inner motivation, sense of initiative or perspective.

I would now like to share with you all my memorable and amazing experiences in this beautiful country, with an abundance of accessibility for persons with disabilities and of friendly people always ready to help!

I would like to extend my warmest thanks and appreciation to Ms. Anca David, the director of VIEWS International, which was my hosting organisation, and to all her dedicated team members, who have made my stay here simply amazing!

At first, I felt I would not be able to cope with the extremely different culture. However, to my utmost surprise and delight, I managed to fit in quite well, and was even able to travel by myself around Liège! Working closely with the Views team gave me a deeper insight into the basic day-to-day functioning of the organisation, and taught me how to run my organisation in a more proficient manner, given the Indian limitations with regards to proper accessibility.

I am also grateful to my host Anca for having organised many fruitful meetings and exchanges with other organisations for the blind, which have enriched me with new ideas to implement many new techniques in my country, for the improvement of the lives of persons with visual impairment.

I spent the first week learning mobility, French and daily-living skills, and getting used to the place and the different culture. In the second week, I visited the Parlamentarium in Brussels, which was yet another surprise: everything was extremely accessible, with audioguides describing what was around and tactile maps of the main buildings. For once, sightseeing visits did not seem boring to me, as I could actively participate.

Clara (EVS volunteer) and Tiffany touching a model of Luxembourg European Parliament Headquarters during the Visit of Parlamentarium

I was then taken by my hostess to visit two distinguished organisations, the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL), where I learned about their work and how they strive to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and enhance their independent living.

Meeting room with representatives of ENIL, EDF, Views International & Tiffany

Another project I visited was the Socio-Cultural Association, which promotes youth work and French learning for immigrants.

Our next visit was more lively, with many new discoveries: we visited the toy library of the National Association for the Blind (ONA), where I was delighted to see the time, effort and creativity put into each adapted game. And I realised that, here in Europe, visually impaired persons are not treated as third-class citizens, like in many developing countries, but as equals. This warmed my heart and filled me with determination to observe everything closely and try to implement at least some of it in India.

Adapted game for Visually impaired / Tiffany touching the Braille puppets

Tiffany, Tom, Laurent (from ONA), Clara and Anca playing “Troc Sushi”

I was also amazed by the fact that roads are so smooth and easily navigable for the blind, especially thanks to the tactile guidelines.

Our first life training, combined with a tea in the dark, took place in Liège. It did not only raise awareness among the present about the world of the blind, but also facilitated the intercultural dialogue between all participants.

During my job shadowing, I also got the opportunity to learn more about the work done at Views international: the youth mobilisation and the organisation of meetings between European young blind people, providing them with a platform to exchange ideas and better themselves.

I also got to learn a lot about the European Voluntary Service, which is in my opinion the best option for a blind person. Indeed, with EVS he/she gets the opportunity to explore a different country and culture, as well as to improve his/her independent living skills and get rid of his/her fears and inhibitions.

Tiffany and Martine from La Lumière

My job shadowing here has enriched me with a lot of ideas. I also got the opportunity to visit La Lumière, an association in Liège which organizes a wide range of activities for the blind and gives them the opportunity to explore their inner potential. When I saw blind men equally interested in cooking, I was utterly surprised!

At La Lumière, blind people learn many interesting and productive things, such as paper making, IT, Braille, low vision unit, pottery unit, cooking unit with adapted materials, an adapted mobility ground, an adapted gym, and much more!

We also got the opportunity to conduct two more life trainings, one in Brussels and one in Leuven. The one in Brussels targeted both sighted and blind people and was about disability awareness and intercultural communication. The participants were very interested in the topics and extremely lively.

Image during the life TC in Brussels, while participants sit around the table and discuss

The third life training was in Leuven and targeted only blind people, the majority of whom were in the executive board of ICC Belgium, an organisation which aims to improve blind youngsters' social and technological skills. Our training included some good discussions on disabilities and intercultural communication.

Image with the group of participants after the life TC in Leuven

I would like to thank Joyce, Anca, Clara and Theo for the vital role they played in organizing the logistics and facilitating the training.

We also got the opportunity to visit the primary and secondary schools for the blind, which gave me a deeper insight into how blind children study in Europe and how accessible materials are. And, to my utmost surprise, I met a Pakistani student, who was in Belgium with her parents and was working hard at the school.

Image with IRHOV primary school teachers and Tiffany in a classroom

Here, like in La Lumière, girls and boys were taught equal skills with equal importance!

As I already mentioned, this job shadowing was an eye-opener for me, and paved the way for me to build my organisation Jyothirgamaya to a higher level. It stimulated me to dream big and think high!
Our life trainings focused on subjects like disability awareness and intercultural communication. They also concentrated on the promotion of the "Strength Through Solidarity" online platform, which will be ready soon!

Thank you, Anca, Views, and all the great people I met in Europe, for making me think that life for the blind is worth living and can be fun and very resourceful too!

Tiffany discovering the city center of Liège (airplane in Saint Lambert Square)