By Jay-Dee, Aventhea, Kellelo, Anneke, Gordan, Malan & Teneille

Antwerp

Monday:
We came to Belgium and we journeyed towards our accommodation which was the Central Youth Hostel. Everything about the accommodation was great, comfortable and modern, the people will also really friendly and helpful.  That same day we all had to go to the KdG Hogeschool where the 5th CASO Staff meeting begun. We got to be there for the welcoming and realized it would be mostly a staff week as they had meetings every day. We ended up going on a tour of the university, which was really advanced and a great place to study. We had assignments that we spent time working on throughout the week. That night we had the opening dinner at HOBS. The food was good and filling, truly enjoyable.

Tuesday:
We woke up ready for the day. We went exploring and sightseeing around the area we were staying at in Antwerp. The evening came and we had a “City Run”. Stef and Veronique lead us throughout the town. Whilst running/jogging we would stop at places where Stef would explain some history of a certain place like interesting buildings and landmarks or statues and churches. It was really exciting and we ran almost 8km that night. It was worth getting exhausted over.

Wednesday:
We went to the campus of KdG Hogeschool. We sat around with the staff members. That same morning most of us were given keys to our bicycles. We rode our bikes around the city, exploring, and really felt part of the Belgium way of life.  That afternoon/evening came and we had a visit at the campus by a Social Worker named Matè that studied under Pieter (one of the CASO staff members). He spoke about the mixture of the profession of which he studied (Social work) and where he his working at the moment (Soccer Club called City Pirates). He was inspirational and we saw the positives in that kind of working environment. He is a manager at the Soccer club which used to be an NGO and now they are getting funds from the government. It’s a club that focuses on the growth of kids and youth. Helping those in need for example, from poor backgrounds. It is true that “Sport is a mirror of society”. After this discussion with him, he truly inspired us and motivated us to do the same within our professions; mixing what we know to improve one’s lifestyle in society.

Thursday:
The morning we went to campus to complete our assignments and had lunch at 12:00. At 15:00 all who wanted to go on a tour around the city could go with Pieter. He led us by bike. The first stop we had was at the Antwerp street boys club. Which was also a soccer club that helps those in need by providing physical care by playing soccer and receiving food from the club. We were able to play a game with them, we were on mixed teams so got to get to know the players a bit. Next, we headed for the “Antwerp Soccer Stadium”. We were blown away by this fascinating state of the art stadium. We arrived there in the dark hours and it was so beautiful to see the lights on the stadium. We are so fascinated by the fact that all parking areas include bicycle parking’s as well. And there were so many bikes and it really is just part of everyday life and transport. We went inside the stadium and got a tour. The Antwerp team is also known as the “Red Devils”.

Friday:
Earlier in the week, we were given assignments and one of them was to come up with four different energizers/activities that we would need to do with the staff Friday morning (and again in Breda). A lot of fund was had. The idea of the energizers is simply to get people moving!  Two energizers were given. One was “Electric Current Shot” which is done by holding hands and the facilitator taps his hand on the person’s shoulder that is in front of the row and then that front person squeezes the others hand until they get to the last person who would get out of the current and then throw a ball in a box. There were 3 teams so the team who got the most balls in a certain amount of time wins. The other was a dance we did with everybody to get them more hyped and letting loose from stress etc. We literally brought Africa to Europe with our dance. Everybody participated and enjoyed themselves. The closing Dinner on Friday saw the 1st week of the staff meeting come to a close.  Antwerp was a great city, friendly people and always willing to help. Regarding the CASO project it was not very structured for the students, we took the day as if comes.

Breda

Monday:
We arrived in Breda and went directly to Avans Hogeschool. We were shown a quick tour within the campus as well as been given a break down of the Dutch education system and how Avans is structured, very different to us! We were taken to the GET-lab for the afternoon. We were shown new ways on how they treat people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders like dementia.
They created robotic animals that have the ability to react. Reaction causes people with mental disorders to actually interact with the robot animal positively and because of that it provides calmness and peace towards those people and allows the patient to feel included and needed.  They had a robot cat, a small robot Dinosaur called “ART”, AND also a baby seal.  After that they showed us the amazing features of “Virtual Reality” and we got to experience the system. Finally, we left for our accommodation. We got there, got divided into rooms and made ourselves at home quickly.

Tuesday:
We got to experience “life in Breda” by biking to Avans. We were in a lecture to learn about “Motivational Interviewing”(MI) and then later “Critical Thinking”. For the MI lecture, we were given an assignment to make a video to interview someone guiding them towards their goals whether it’s giving advice or asking questions so that they can answer important questions for themselves. The Critical Thinking was quite challenging! It was truly interesting to learn about different types of perspectives, which is good when it comes to considering people in general seen as though our professions is often dealing with people. We had supper this evening with some previous students who visited SA and some new ones who will visit SA in 2019 as part of the CASO project student mobility.

Wednesday:
Morning came and we rode to NAC, the location where they interact and play with the senior citizens. We were pleasantly surprised to see so many of the elderly coming out to play soccer and be part of a team as well as senior citizens socializing with each other. These senior citizens are known as the “Old Stars”. The intention of this project is to keep these elderly players in good health condition and to ensure they are included in society by giving them various opportunities to socialize and interact with each other through different events that NAC arrange. Thereafter, we went to the NAC Stadium where they focused more on the growth of children in many aspects and not just sports, but music, making food, building confidence and other important skills. We later did 3 energizers with the kids. We played “the ninja” game with them (You use your hands to dodge, attack and freeze each time you do one or the other until both hands are touched and you’re out until one person remains as the victor). Another energizer where great concentration was required was to hop in blocks in a certain direction, forward then back whilst others around you are doing the same and using math skills to calculate where to jump. There was a bit of a language barrier but we had the volunteers to help with this.

Thursday:
We cycled to BRESS where we were shown videos of people with disabilities and impairments, we were reminded that we are fortunate and also that all things are possible no matter what you lack. Belief makes up for what you lack. These people are still able to live a quality life and be independent. Thereafter we played wheelchair basketball. It was truly interesting and so much fun to experience. We did drills, practised a few critical things that would be necessary whilst in a wheelchair and ended off playing a game. This experience gave us a deeper understanding and perspective of people with disabilities.

Friday:
We went to Avans Hogeschool. We came to a different classroom in a new building and then we were told about the “Star reflection model” (STAR (R). We had to make use of it for the next assignment we were given that day. We had to reflect on all that we did whilst in Antwerp and also in Breda within the CASO Project. We made a poster and we could do it any way we pleased. Thereafter we had to present the poster to everyone within the class and had an opportunity to discuss and reflect on each person’s experience in a creative way.

 OUR appreciation

This experience was so amazing and we would love to thank each and every one who played a part in our journey. It is something no man could ever take away from us as students and for that, we are truly grateful. It has been the highlight of the year. THANK YOU.

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