Romanian Rebeca (37) has been living in Belgium for over ten years, but until recently she did not get out much. But when she finally decided to sign up for the bon integration programme, a whole world opened up to her. She is now aiming for a job in the care sector, has an international circle of friends and regularly goes to the gym.
Rebeca was born and raised in Romania. As a student she went to Italy to get a carer's diploma. She then worked in a hospice there, where she took care of terminal cancer patients. Rebeca: “I really enjoyed my job. Of course, it was emotionally demanding at times; death is not beautiful. But restoring people's dignity and helping a dying person's family through small gestures is very rewarding.”
“I stopped dreaming long ago”
After six years in Italy, Rebeca followed her husband to Brussels. The couple had four children and she stayed at home to take care of the offspring. She did not get out much. The threshold was too high: “We do not have any relatives here and hence are mainly dependent on ourselves. The children took up most of my time and energy.”
That changed in 2019, when Rebeca knocked on the door at bon. "The first question I got was: 'What are you dreaming of?' It put me completely off balance. I had given up dreaming a long time ago. At least for myself anyway. I thought Romanians in Belgium could only be cleaning staff.”
Care sector focused integration programme
Thanks to her programme counsellor, Rebeca is now contemplating a professional career again. She recently followed the integration programme for people looking for training or work in the care sector. “During the social orientation course I was surrounded by doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, ... Some of them had a lot of practical experience but still no job. That got me thinking: I realized I had lost enough time. I was like a sponge, I wanted to know everything about health care.”
Rebeca also learned a lot from the Dutch language course: "We learned technical terms that will certainly come in handy when we are working."
Rebeca now feels like a different person: “During the integration programme you encounter people you would otherwise never approach. It really opened my eyes. I had a lot of prejudices against other cultures, but I quickly got rid of them. It was a good preparation for 'real' - multicultural - life. Now, for example, I dare speak to other mothers at the school gate, regardless of where they are from.”
Her family also noticed that Rebeca was thriving. Her husband saw that she became much more independent and vibrant. And the children? She took them to extracurricular activities for the first time. “I learned that you can do so much on a limited budget. For example, I am now taking an online web design course on my own and I regularly go to the gym. Wonderful!”
Plans for the future
How Rebeca sees the future? “bon is currently helping me to have my diploma acknowledged in Belgium. Then I will be looking for a job as a carer and who knows, I might someday retrain as a nurse. I dare to dream again.”