Like a hand

A story told by Loida Antwerp, Belgium

Loida became a widow last year after a few intense years. Since then, together with her son Alexander, she has been building a new life in which leisure and holiday participation have provided much-needed moments of renovation. She is now taking her first steps as a volunteer to organise low-threshold leisure activities, together with her social counselor at OCMW Antwerp.

Leisure time and holiday participation can mean so much more to people in poverty than simply taking a break: this is the message that Loida, expert by experience, wants to communicate to the world. Ever since she discovered what a powerful catalyst re-energising for a short period can be, she hopes to encourage others too to actively explore the world.


One little push makes a world of difference

“In life, you sometimes find yourself on a proverbial roundabout. You feel like you are going round in circles and you know that you have to move forward at some point. But in what direction? And how? This is the point I reached after my husband passed away. Having been through a number of difficult years, my world had shrunk. I knew that I needed a push. The public centre for social welfare’s leisure activities calendar and Holiday Participation’s guide gave me that push. With the help of my social worker I got out and about again, met other people and found peace. The world opened up, not just for me but for my young son too. I rediscovered my courage. Now I dare to take the initiative much more often and I am more open to new people and activities. I feel grateful that I have received so much support and happiness, both from God and from all the people and all the bodies with whom and with which I came into contact through Him.”

Making insights a reality

“It can be useful to have a talk with a psychologist. Talking about your problems and how to tackle them can provide you with new insights. But how do you make those insights a reality? The leisure activities calendar and Holiday Participation helped me to take the step from talking and thinking to actually doing. It was as though someone took my hand and accompanied me throughout the process. A hand that helped my young son and myself out of the darkness and back into the world. Today, I do things that I would not have contemplated doing a year ago, like going to the seaside for a day, just me and my son. Holiday Participation gives me the courage to do it. I know that I will receive all the information, including about how we can get there, and that there is a number I can call if I have any questions. I no longer feel that I have to do it on my own. And I notice that I need less and less help each time I decide to do something.”

Because happiness wants to be shared

“Many people in difficult circumstances really need a holiday or a day out and think that it is simply not an option for them. It just remains a dream for them. These are the people I want to encourage to seek help and information, through the public centre for social welfare or other channels. Because getting out into the world again has meant so much to us, I hope that I can encourage other people to do it too. Together with Kirsten Mariën, my social worker, I am now going to organise group trips for customers of the public centre for social welfare.”

Ambassador for accessible services

“We are going to look for some great activities in the city, and call people up and invite them to come along. It gives you so much energy doing fun things together and not having to talk about your problems for a change. I notice it myself: when I am enthusiastic and focus on the positive, I suddenly feel like a different person.

Holiday Participation’s guide is published by the Holiday Participation Centre of Tourism Flanders. The Holiday Participation Centre provides holiday-opportunities for people in poverty.



Authored by Griet Bouwen Bilzen