Leonardo da Vinci Mobility Programme

Off to Belgium with Leonardo

When I was asked to participate in a Leonardo Mobility project, I had no idea what the project entailed.  I had gathered only some ideas from people who had previously participated in similar project of what the project would be about.  I was surely unaware of how fruitful and exciting the experience would be.

During the last two weeks of January 2010, I had the opportunity to be exposed to the work of the ‘Association Interregionale de Guidance et de Santé’ (AIGS) in French-speaking Belgium.  AIGS is a non-profit organisation that promotes and assist the integration of people with mental, psychological and physical difficulties in the community.  My placement focussed on mental health services even though AIGS provides guidance to individuals with a whole range of difficulties. I visited different services almost every day, but since the area in which I work is rehabilitation, the placement focused on this kind of service for people with mental health problems in the community.

While in Belgium I was fortunate enough to be present for the ceremony celebrating the 45th anniversaryof AIGS.  On this occasion I watched presentations describing the development and growth of the organisation, with both its successes and difficulties that were present throughout the years.  With 700 employees, 94 different antennas of service and touching the lives of around 15,000 service users, I saw AIGS as a very valid partner for Richmond Foundation, from which to learn and be encouraged.  I was struck by the fact that some of the colleaguse had been working with AIGS for over 20 years, and as I heard them speak about difficulties similar to the ones we encounter in Malta, I saw this as a point of encouragement.  It was as though AIGS was a living proof that the difficulties inevitably encountered in this sector can help to make an organisation stronger, not weaker, provided that one remains open to the necessary changes.

If an organisation holds on to its guiding principles, and continues to put the service user at the centre of its existence the changes hoped for in the mentality and attitude of others, will also be altered.  Undoubtedly, such changes take time, and AIGS is running as smoothly as it seems only after years of tweaking and extensive development, through the work of professional and dedicated workers and an effective global coordination of resources.  It would be foolish to pretend such developments to happen overnight and the information gathered is to be inevitably adapted to the context in which one is working.

I would like to thank Richmond Foundation for giving me this fruitful and unforgettable opportunity as well as AIGS colleagues for hosting and assisting me so diligently and for being so patient with my French.  I also encourage other workers who might have a similar learning opportunity to seize the day and make the most of it.

Deborah Gauci – Project Worker, Villa Chelsea

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