What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
Our aim was to make it possible for people to live in a place where they feel at home and where professional care is available. It’s fair to say we have succeeded in this. We have separated housing and care, while at the same time offering the proximity of care that our residents required.
This was the inspiring mission of De Weerde and we have made it a reality. We are now six months down the road and we can say that we work for an enthusiastic organisation. And that enthusiasm drives us and our colleagues. This should be unremarkable, but at De Weerde we really see the people we care for and we genuinely give them attention and show an interest in them. We do not provide care on the basis of protocols or a schedule, but based on contact and curiosity. We believe you have to give something before you get something in return.
In what way is your approach innovative?
We offer care and protection, working together on an integral basis with therapists and people who speak from experience. In this way we offer a safe place for people who have a psychological vulnerability or mental disability. We explore and improve. In short, we learn every day, which in our opinion is a hallmark of professionalism. We don’t give in and we don’t give up but keep exploring.
We always look at what we have already done and what is still possible. Our staff are energetic, we look outwards together with and on behalf of our clients, and we are aware that people with a mental illness or disability, just like all of us, want to lead a meaningful, social and active life. This requires a broad focus on personal and social recovery. We do our best every day to achieve this.
We want the clients who stay at De Weerde for a period of their life to have a positive memory of their time. Even after they have started living independently, we want them to see the location of the Hanzelaan as a safe base to which they can always return. Traditions strengthen that memory. And we have already introduced a few of them; they include the success pot, for example, and soup and toasted sandwiches on Sundays, and the special way in which we have organised co-decision-making. Traditions strengthen the feeling of belonging, they make you feel part of your home, and they help to strengthen mutual bonds.
We have taken great care with the design and appearance of the building and apartments. Not by buying expensive designer furniture, but instead by really making an effort and carefully looking for tasteful and affordable items. Our building on the Hanzelaan is now well furnished and radiates cosiness, so it really feels like home. And that is what these people deserve.
Of course we also respect people for whom maintaining some functional capacity is the best that can be achieved. These people are also provided with a suitable place at De Weerde, but with them, too, we explore who they are and what they can contribute. Sometimes these are small steps and, to be honest, sometimes they involve one step forward and two steps back, but we don’t give up.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on your organisation?
The business loan we have received is more than just funding to us. The loan has made it possible to contribute to the future of people with vulnerabilities in a way we really believe in. Every day, we work with a team of professionals and volunteers and try to make a difference and translate people’s wishes and desires into concrete prospects for the future.
What impact does your organisation have on the sector?
What makes us special is that we actually aim to make ourselves superfluous as an organisation. That may sound strange. But as far as we are concerned, this should be the focus of every healthcare organisation. Because when clients are sufficiently self-reliant, we help them make the transition to independent living.
Currently, three clients will make the transition to living in their own apartment within six months. De Weerde continues to assist them even after they have moved out. But not through the use of expensive funds earmarked for outpatient care under the Social Support Act. Instead, even after they have moved out, people can always turn to the location that offered them a sheltered place to live, for answers to their questions and as a safety net. They can go there on Sunday mornings for a cup of coffee, a breakfast, or if they have a question about the rent, renewing their driver’s licence, or, perhaps, about a difficult letter that recently landed on their doormat. It costs us and society nothing extra, as we are already there. That is an innovative way of using public funds.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
The latter aspect is also something we share with Triodos Bank. De Weerde and Triodos Bank are both organisations where money is not the only priority. Our starting point is that we should be aware of the effect our services have on society.
At De Weerde we don’t want to be an island. We want to be at the heart of the local community: we are a good neighbour, we buy our groceries from local businesses, we offer a young woman on unemployment benefits the chance to get an education and a job, we take care of our volunteers, and we take that extra step a few times a week. That’s what De Weerde is about and that’s what makes the difference.
Photo by Anne Stielstra