Leonardo da Vinci Mobility Programme
In November 2013, I took part in the Leonardo da Vinci Mobility Programme and I went to Hafal in Wales. Hafal means “equal” in Welsh and this organisation works with individuals with severe mental health difficulties. Hafal has a variety of services and covers all of Wales. Hafal gives a lot of importance to empowering service users, and in fact, the organisation is managed by the people it supports.
During this experience, I got to meet different professionals who do similar work to what I do. We exchanged our experiences and talked about the impact of our services on service users. We further discussed the challenges that we face in our work, and I must say that we definitely learnt from each other.
Since I work as an Employment Officer, I was particularly interested in the employment services. In fact, similar to Richmond Foundation, Hafal gives ample importance to training service users in different employment-related skills. Hafal focuses especially on building service users’ self-esteem and self-confidence. Furthermore, Hafal has a number of employment projects, where service users can improve their skills in preparation for employment. Most employment projects have a number of computers so that service users can improve their computer literacy. Additionally, most projects offer the possibility to service users to make some crafts which they can then take home.
The majority of the employment projects also have a wood workshop, where service users interested in carpentry can invest in this skill. Needless to say, carpentry is less popular nowadays, and most service users enhance this skill in order to occupy themselves, rather than to engage in employment. Additionally, Hafal has a cafeteria which is run by individuals who experience mental health difficulties and their carers.
Even though Hafal works hard to engage service users in employment, it is still very hard for individuals with mental health difficulties to find employment. Therefore, a lot of importance is given to voluntary work. Through my placement, I realised that stigma against individuals with mental health difficulties is also prominent in Wales, and the people I met with during my placement told me that people are even afraid to talk about mental health difficulties. I learnt a lot from my placement, and I also saw that as Richmond Foundation, we are on the right track towards creating a better mental health in the community.