Kempenhaeghe, a Dutch organization with a hospital, a residence, and a school for people with epilepsy, decided to create an extra quarter to Sterksel, the village next door, so that their clients could live their life in society as normally as possible.
Marianne Van Beers
Institut Français d’ Appreciative Inquiry
Approximately 175 handicapped people with epilepsy live around an old monastery in the midst of nature. For them, it is impossible to live independently or with limited care in a village. To give these people the possibility to integrate in society, the terrain was redeveloped. A total of 220 houses will arise to form Kloostervelden, the new quarter of Sterksel. In a subtle way, some of the buildings harbor the care units, apartments and some services for the 175 inhabitants with epilepsy. In 2014, the first ‘ordinary’ people were welcomed in Kloostervelden to live as their new neighbors. In 2017, already over 60 ‘ordinary’ families reside, live and relax in Kloostervelden next to the 175 pepole with epilepsy.
In the Netherlands during the previous century, people with mental handicaps were institutionalized. Usually in the Catholic south, this was done by monks and nuns in remote areas. In the last decades, institutes tried to reverse this by moving the housing into villages. This was not possible for everybody. By building a new quarter to an existing village, the concerned people were not only able to live amongst ordinary people, but this could well be the preservation of the village. This village was too small to maintain the necessary services as a school or a shop, but by growing with 180 houses, it will. For the villagers, there will even be additional services such as doctors, nurses, catering and fitness.
Living next to each other, there is no longer an institute. Old values, like being more mindful and taking care of each other, are being restored. Villagers and caretakers benefit and learn from each others presence.
Selling land to new inhabitants helped to make it possible to build new houses for groups of handicapped people, to upgrade existing buildings like the monastery, and reorienting the site. The new approach was also supported by regional authorities, including the providence of Noord-Brabant. The providence also supported the development of new nature areas in and around Kloostervelden. This brings new business opportunities such as study to support of use of nature in treatments. For the longer term, the initiative may supply extra financial resources (and costs) to maintain a certain quality of life. In addition, it offers extra business opportunities to new clients, such as business retreats for companies in the nearby city of Eindhoven. The common infrastructures in Kloostervelden such as roads, lighting, and water will be handed over to the local government and therewith become public property.
Supplying a lively and welcoming atmosphere means that Kempenhaeghe will remain an interesting place when a person with epilepsy is no longer able to live at home.
Belonging to a community is important to everyone alive. Being able to contribute and feel welcome, whether one is new or with special needs, is essential.
The village of Sterksel always has been known to accommodate different backgrounds and mindsets. Because 400 out of 1,320 villagers work within Kempenhaeghe, they know more about epilepsy than the average individual. The new inhabitants are providing a natural support system in addition to the care that is professionally given.
Kempenhaeghe now has broken down the walls of the institute and connected to the village. By creating a new quarter, they reinforced the circumstances for not being an outsider. This means that Kempenhaeghe clients really can be part of a community, as inhabitants of Sterksel.
Furthermore, the historical and scenic features of the area could be maintained in a respectful way.
By bringing in extra inhabitants, certain services like a school and a shop will be ensured for the village.
Hilke Huysinga; Wies de Haan & Martin Huijts; Simone Kuilder & Prelude van de Doelen, 3 interviews (June 1 Projectmanager Kempenhaeghe, June 30 Village council Sterksel and July, 4 Resident & Quarter Coach)
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Business Website: https://www.kempenhaeghe.nl/
Year Founded: 1919
Number of Employees: 1001 to 5000