Dune, Civic Service, Belgium

My name is Dune and I am 19 years old. This year, I spent 6 months in Belgium working with disabled people as part of a civic service project.

Dune

I lived alongside disabled people, essentially in the role of a specialised educator; I supervised and helped them in their day-to-day lives. I mainly worked alongside educators (who were all really great) when I was at L’Arche (the organisation where I carried out my civic service).

I was offered this project and I thought ‘Why not!’ I had had some knowledge of disability since I was very young, but why not get to know more? It could increase my awareness and help me as well.

My biggest difficulty at first was by myself, in unfamiliar surroundings and without the people I am used to around me…But I was patient and I found that the solitude made me more open to what was around me. Without that, I could never have gained as much from my project!

I genuinely feel that I made a lasting impression, both regarding certain projects but also with the residents as well as my colleagues.

I wouldn’t say that I left as a child or adolescent, but I did come back with greater maturity. I was more self-confident: I now know what I am capable of doing and I have genuinely learnt to have confidence in my own abilities and this is highly important in personal and professional relationships. I am much clearer now about my future projects and what I expect – and don’t expect – of others.

I have never taken on so much as during these last 6 months, but I have never laughed as much or enjoyed myself as much either.

When term starts again, I will return to studying with a much clearer idea of what I’m expecting from it and I will be more determined from the outset.

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