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Training in Belgium

During November VIEWS hosted a five-day training event here in Belgium as part of the Beyond Barriers and Borders (BBB) project. Funded by the Erasmus+ programme, the BBB project is an intercultural and intergenerational opportunity for both blind, partially sighted and sighted people between 18 and 30 years old, and 50+ to learn and exchange on issues and topics relating to visual impairment. The training that took place from Thursday 16 to Tuesday 21 November in Liege, Belgium focused on daily living matters and included workshops on things like cooking, being visually impaired parents and discussing taboo topics. We hosted a group of participants from Poland, Austria and Belgium for five days and were helped by VIEWS volunteers to hold several workshops and cultural activities each day.

The three groups arrived late on Thursday evening so there was just enough time to enjoy a quick dinner before getting some much-needed rest before the days ahead. We kicked off the training on Friday morning with some essential mobility and orientation around the accommodation, followed by an introductory speech by one of our VIEWS coordinators, Sylvie, who introduced the values of the project and presented the programme for the days ahead. We also got to know each other a little with some ice-breaking games. Following lunch, it was time to proceed with the workshops, that afternoon being about safety in the kitchen, preparing easy and healthy snacks and household cleaning. After a full first day, some of the participants chose to explore the city while others enjoyed adapted board games.

Saturday morning involved more cooking as participants had the opportunity to learn how to make Belgian waffles, salami biscuit desserts or participate in a discussion about different techniques and adapted equipment to use in the kitchen. After lunch, it was time for some lively debates about embarrassing and taboo topics, difficulties in daily life and about being visually impaired parents or grandparents. Some excellent discussions were had which allowed many participants to share their own experiences and exchange alternative views in a respectful and non-judgmental environment. Sunday was a much more relaxed day, starting with an optional visit to a local Mass service and followed by workshops on massage and beauty. That afternoon the group headed to the city centre to visit a local museum and the famous Liege puppet theatre.

Monday was the last full day of activities when participants had workshops on first aid and coordinating clothes in the morning, followed by a visit to a Galler chocolate factory in the afternoon. As it was the last night of the training, Monday was also the time for the intercultural evening which featured a meal consisting of a course from each country for dinner, followed by presentations of local traditions and delicacies from each group. The polish group taught us to dance a traditional Polonies dance and the Austrian tried to teach us the Viennese Waltz, while the Belgians held a quiz. Each country also brought some tasty treats to share; the Polish vodka, Austrian wine and Belgian beer were flowing nicely.
All too soon it was Tuesday morning and time to make preparations for departure. It was a very enjoyable few days of learning, exchanging and helping each other. Sarah, one of the sighted volunteers from Austria said that the project opened her eyes to obstacles that visually impaired people face which she had never considered before. She explained, I’ve met so many super great people. It’s a very diversified team in terms of people of different ages here and their life experiences are so different, it’s fascinating.” One of the blind participants, Milena from Poland also praised the training saying “I did enjoy it very much. I took part in very interesting workshops and discussions concerning different topics and aspects of everyday life and we also had brilliant volunteers with us who were very helpful and patient. For me, this training was a great opportunity to exchange experience and get to know new people from different countries and also various age groups.” Another blind participant, Mahindra from Austria said that his favourite workshop was the first-aid session and the debate about embarrassing and taboo topics. He said, “the value of this project is really the intergenerational exchange of information and life experience on things like technology, but also practical things like cooking and maintaining a household”.”

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Thanks to all the participants who attended and we look forward to the next phase of the project which will be held in Austria next year.