Experiencing sosial inclusion in Aalst

12 September 2022 - Published by Walter Wehus
At the partner meeting in Aalst in May, partners in From Isolation to Inclusion got to meet the local initiatives making connections in Flanders easier.

On May 11, the international partners in the project From Isolation to Inclusion (I2I) gathered in Aalst at the invitation of partner Zorglab Aalst. One of the main reasons for the partner meeting was getting to know the local stakeholders.

Zorglab Aalst has a unique positition in the municipality. It is a lab on health and care innovations that works together with citizens, enterprises, research institutions and caregivers.

The main stakeholders in the region for the I2I project are the community health centre Daenshuis, the poverty association Vierdewereldgroep Mensen voor Mensen, and Give a Day, which provides smart community care and neighbourhood assistance.

This photo and top: Neighbourhood project from the community health center Daenshuis.

Aspects of health

The presentation from Daenshuis showed how they respond to the needs of vulnerable people.

The centre offers affordable – mostly free, in fact – health services and prevention in the neighbourhood. They work with all aspects of health, across disciplines such as medicine, nursing, psychotherapy, social work, healtph promotion and coaching for physical activity.

Daenshuis uses several different channels to identify the needs of the neighbourhood. This can include consultations with professionals, using medical records, waiting room conversations, and surveys.

Responding to the needs, Daenshuis has a whole wheel of solutions carefully co-created over time with users and experts. The aim is always solidarity, accesibility and a universal approach.

Social relations

The poverty association Vierdewereldgroep Mensen voor Mensen (VMM) supports social relations in neighbourhoods through a method they call the “little encounters”.

In the neighbourhood project B², they worked with vulnerable residents on preventing loneliness and building connections.

“Every little intervention helps neighbours get in contact with each other. Everything we do, we do together with the neighbours to answer their needs”, says Maria Hebbelinck from VMM.

The outreach from the association is what makes the difference between staying home alone and committing to the neighbourhood.

One of the interventions included sharing recipies in a community cookbook. This made it easier for neighbours to talk to one another, a first step towards being able to ask for help or offering help when needed.

Smart community care

Give a Day (GaD) is a technical partner for I2I Aalst, providing smart community care and neighbourhood assistance. They build online communities to match organisations, volunteers and neighbours to donate their time where it is needed.

Over 80 cities already use the tool, which makes it quite cost-efficient. Thanks to this, GaD can share expertise on planning, communication, data management and insurance when working with volunteers.

The tool is based on self-service and automation. But it is dependent on commitment and support from the city and the first line social workers. In return, they learn a lot about the needs and accessibility of existing services.