Committing to providing an alternative
In the Belgian municipality of Aalter, Cindy Devos, services coordinator, and Günther Vandenabeele, financial and administrative manager, are two employees of VINCI Energies Belgium helping the Aalternatief association. Created by a group of parents who wanted to offer their children with impairments an alternative, the association is supported by the Fonds VINCI.
Belgium, and the Flemish region in particular, has an abundance of day centres: residential and care establishments for people with impairments. Unfortunately, there are nevertheless long waiting lists for these centres.
To address this problem, a group of parents decided to take matters into their own hands and founded Aalternatief. Their main objective is to create a new home, not just for their own children, but also for other young adolescents with impairments who are unable to attend school or other day centres.
As well as providing them with care and comfort, they also want to create a place where each young person is stimulated to take part in daytime activities, to build a bridge between these children and wider society.
Cindy Devos, services coordinator, and Günther Vandenabeele, financial and administrative manager, are two employees of VINCI Energies Belgium who were looking for a local project to sponsor. At the end of 2020, they decided to make a commitment to Aalternatief.
What is your role in the association?
Günther – as sponsors, we work to support Aalternatief however much we can. That involves promoting the association on social media and at Actemium (VINCI Energies) with regard to one of the centre’s activities, namely the distribution of fruit and vegetable boxes.
Cindy – Through our professional skills, we also try to contribute creatively to solving Aalternatief’s problems, whether in terms of organisation (me) or financial management (Günther).
How has your commitment changed over the past few years?
C. – Aalternatief is currently looking for the perfect location for children, and wants to offer daytime activities to keep them stimulated. For the latter, we’ve submitted a grant request to the Fonds VINCI for a tandem bike with a trailer. This would enable the children and their carers to collect and deliver goods from local shopkeepers (they focus on people with mobility issues, for example). As well as providing interesting activities during the day, this will enable the children to get physical exercise and make contact with other people, which can only help their future integration.
G. – Unfortunately, there are still loads of things to do, like looking for volunteers for the courier service and maintaining our partnership with the local business community. We also need to buy a second bike to make more and quicker deliveries.
We just try to make our contribution and do our share.
Do it! Get involved, because for the non-profits that we help, it can really make a huge difference. You can bring a bit of joy to so many people who have bigger problems than you do.
In your opinion, what benefits does a sponsor gain from this type of commitment?
G. – We really feel like we can bring new ideas, and that they are enthusiastically welcomed at Aalternatief. Whenever we meet the volunteers, they are always really busy, and we deeply admire their investment in giving these children a better future. If you have children yourself, it affects you that bit more.
C. – Seeing how committed they are brings a lot from a personal point of view and comes as a true revelation for anyone. Also, knowing that you can contribute to such a great project is very rewarding.
For us, solidarity means gifting a part of your free time for a good cause.
The Fonds VINCI wants to support organizations, with human and financial resources, pursuing a social and welfare purpose. Its aim is to fight against any form of exclusion, to give each individual their own place, role and dignity in society.