Sofia Ksenyak, a second-year student specializing in Social Work, shares her impressions of her training in Belgium, at the Zevenbergen and Monikenheide rehabilitation centers.

“For the first two weeks, I practiced in the town of Ranst, where I was living. Our Belgian colleagues welcomed us with open arms. They were with us for a month, helped and supported. For me personally, they have become relatives and friends. “Zevenbergen” is a rehabilitation center that has a very large area with a swimming pool, a farm and separate houses for people with disabilities.
In two weeks, we were introduced to various types of therapy. For example, we visited a zootherapy centre. It has a large farm with many animals, such as: horses, bunnies, goats, sheep, guinea pigs, geese, chickens, pigeons and one pig named Freckle. We met the farm worker Natalie, whom we helped with the animals. We also had a boy with autism, Nash, with us. He spent up to 12 hours with us on the farm, taking care of and hugging the animals. I was struck by the boy’s story because, as Natalie told us, Nash once did not even approach animals at all, but now he is looking forward to meeting them. Zoo therapy helped him become more open, smile more.
We also visited music therapy and theater therapy classes. There we met Stephen who taught guitar and piano lessons for the elderly with special needs. Some of them even sang along and danced, and some played their favorite musical instruments. Theater therapy was no less interesting. Psychologist Ils and speech therapist Teresa staged a fairy tale that involved the physiological capabilities of the human body: sensations caused by touch, pressure, vibration, the effect of texture, distinguishing smells, reproduction of various sounds.
The dance therapy was also impressive because we had the opportunity to see how the center’s employees helped people (and among them were people in wheelchairs) to perform dance movements, without feeling different. We visited the “Maretak” rehabilitation center, where we attended classes with patients in a specialized game room and dance therapy. They saw a relaxation room with a water mattress, flasks with bubbles and neon light. It was extremely interesting.
I was very surprised when we were invited to see the work of a psychologist. We met Ilse in her office, where she was doing therapy with a boy with Down syndrome. She played developmental games with him, checking if he remembered anything from previous classes. For example, he put together puzzles, figurines, flowers on the lawn, showing an animal he named Ilse. Then we had group therapy: to musical accompaniment the psychologist walked with a toy with which she hugged the children or took a soft glove and stroked their faces; gave them perfumes to smell, did exercises with fruit, etc.
But our main work consisted in cooperation with the girl Khrystyna with Down syndrome, who is from Ukraine. Our colleagues from the rehabilitation center hoped that we would help her open up more when she heard her native language. So, we spent most of the practice with her: we played educational games, put together puzzles, listened to children’s Ukrainian music, went for walks, read fairy tales, went to dances, visited the farm, laughed and had fun. Khrystinka is a very positive and smiling girl who likes to attract attention.
We spent the next two weeks in the rehabilitation centre “Monikenheide”, which is located in the town of Zoersel. Patients with a higher level of development live here, who can take care of themselves and even work, which is what they do in the centre. On the territory of the centre there are houses, a swimming pool, a small farm, a library, a small vegetable garden, a building that houses a bakery, a kitchen for cutting vegetables and fruits, a weaving room, a room where wine corks are sorted. Each group has 8-10 people divided in such a way so that they could help each other. The people are very nice and sincere, some of the patients speak English, play various instruments, all lead an active lifestyle.
In this centre, we attended yoga classes, played sports, worked in the garden, helped to clean and baked pancakes. And we also participated in a sponsored marathon, where together we walked more than 600 km. Patients, their parents and employees also participated in it. We managed to collect a considerable amount for the centre.
We went to a Valentine’s Day and Carnival party. In any case, these people know how to have fun: some danced, some showed their vocal abilities – all the patients were happy to see each other. It was extraordinary!
I sincerely thank Drohobych University and the Faculty of History, Pedagogy and Psychology for new opportunities in education.
Sofia Ksenyak, 2nd year student Faculty of History, Pedagogy and Psychology