For this article, we have asked Ines why she loves Gebroeders Vercammen. So, our farm through the eyes of a student. You can read her story and her experiences below!
In February 2018, I started as an interim on ‘Gebroeders Vercammen at Koningshooikt. A social farm nearby Lier. As a student in applied psychology, 20 years old, I had the opportunity to combine my two biggest interests. I connected with our guests, who each had their difficulties in life. But those issues disappeared to the background on the farm. Those who are labelled as ‘those with autism’, ‘a mental health patient’ or ‘a troubled child’ become co-workers in the farming industry. People who participate, who contribute in society in their own way at their own pace. It didn’t take long before friendships were created between me and the guests. It felt like home. I didn’t just counsellor the guests, I also worked on projects. This meant that I learned what it’s like to keep social farms standing. It is hard work for every member of the farm.
When my interim ended, I continued giving my effort. I tried to create a structured environment for guests and worker on the farm so that everybody could work as smoothly as possible. Together with other volunteers, we invested our time with pleasure to help the social farm grow.
In the summer of 2018, I experienced some personal issues. Those kept me from being active for a few months. Yet I did not let go. In March 2019, Evi Van Camp, the business manager, asked me to be president of the organisation Zorgboerderij Tallaart VZW. I couldn’t be more thrilled! With great gratitude I accepted. In the following year, I grew a lot. I learned even more about working behind the scenes on a social farm. I even got the opportunity to work on the farm itself, on the fields. This gave me more insights in the activities and how our guests could be and were involved.
The contribution of social farms was already proven. But so were the challenges it carried. The search for profitability, structure and publicity is not easy. I can see how Evi works hard to maintain an income and keep the organisation standing.
In 2020, I finished my education. With that I ended my time as a president to be a paid counsellor. Again, an amazing opportunity! The pressure to keep a social farm is high. Yet I still believe in it. And I’m not the only one. We put everything together to keep going. Where we started our summer camps with just 8 children, we welcomed over 20 this year. That is growth. But this isn’t the end. We will keep investing, searching and working to maintain initiatives like these. To be heard and seen.
To go from intern to counsellor was a huge path of growth for me. I learned a lot about myself and where I stand for, the guests and their backgrounds and I learned what it’s like to strive for what you believe in. With Evi Van Camp as an example.
What now? Now we try to keep growing and evolving. I am following courses to become a horse reflected coach to be an extra contribution to the farm. All the volunteers and other involved people keep committed to work on new projects and activities. And Evi keeps amazing those around her with her innovative ideas and the effort she puts in it. This is growth.