C2 – Poland visiting Belgium

Below is a comprehensive description of our visit, which includes day by day diary of visited places, people we met, practices, inspirations and impressions we collected during our visit to Ostend and Brugge.

Our work, discussions and visited places could be divided into several points:

  • An ongoing and main activity (throughout the whole visit) - work with our Changemaker and Library’s team - on business plan for Library’s project - ”A storytelling Project with people suffering from Dementia”
  • Library’s role in changing social environment, strengthening social cohesion and community sense
  • Ostend city’s plans/ambitions - evolving from ‘seasonal peaks’ to a continuous flow of tourism through the culture, theatre, festivals.
  • Housing issues: many empty properties outside the season
  • City of Ostend and its demographic – growing number of elderly (ageing society); growing number of people with dementia – in Ostend and Flanders.
  • Culture, art and history of Ostend

Day 1 Saturday 16th: Kris Lambert Library

The Library is located few minutes walk from the beach with a floor to ceiling windows, wide open spaces, a gallery space, an on-site coffee shop.

Despite its size it has a warm and cosy feel to it. It is well equipped, with spaces both for reading and working, and visible information points. The City of Ostend focuses on strengthening the Library as a digital hub, multimedia expert and an information centre.


KLL was our working/learning hub for the whole week. First we met Ostend Library team members – Martine, Isabella, Stan, Matthias, Hans, our Changemaker – Hilde, our Informal Educator - Avril – and we introduced ourselves.

Afterwards Martine Vandermaes started a presentation in order to give us a background on the city, some idea about the Ostend’s needs and to explain where the idea of their Dementia project came from.


 Ostend City wants to evolve from ‘seasonal peaks’ to a continuous flow of tourism through the culture, theatre, festivals. Ostend’s ambition (because of it’s demographic – ageing population) is to be ’’seniors and dementia friendly city’’, the Kris Lambert Library was challenged to develop a project fit for this target group. Here you can read about how they tuckled the project.

Presentation was followed by an introduction to our Changmaker Hilde De Brandt and a dialogue with her. We talked about Simon Sinek, and his ''Start with WHY'' methodology (you can watch here animated book summary on his methodology). According to Sinek - The WHY is the thing that inspires us and inspires those around us, and WHAT we do becomes more powerful when we know WHY we do it. Here is a summary of WHY this project according to KL Library.
We further learnt about the WHY of the Dementia project, main points being:

- passion about the inclusion, right to participate, making difference for the community/people.
- the number of people with dementia is growing, they do not live in the past, but here and now and they deserve a dementia friendly approach                                                                                                                                 


  • Library wants to create a safe, friendly space, rely on open minded staff, supported by a specialist Centre
  • The idea is to use music and visual items as a trigger for memories, turning memories into stories

WHO is going to benefit – people with dementia, their caretakers, their peers, the library staff and broader society

Late afternoon:

Visit to Paperwork exhibition in a local gallery, located in the central part of Ostend. The exhibition was part of C-aps (Contemporary Art Projects) which is a platform for Belgian artists, both young and established ones. It is a nomadic initiative that works in various locations in Belgium. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Hans Defer, one of the team members from a library was also an exhibiting artist! We think that it is a good thing, that the Librarians have different backgrounds and qualifications.

On our way to the gallery we spotted a mural by another great Belgian street artist and urban interventionist – Jaune. He is also known in Poland, where he painted his miniature community workers in Bialystok city.


Library is no longer a place where people only borrow books, it is a place where parents can take their children to read them stories; where stories are read to children by the librarians; where students can study; where people access the internet. It’s a cultural space with workshops, lectures and exhibitions. It’s a place in the heart of the community, where elderly or migrants come for help or advise. The Librarians are facing new challenges moving from transactional to relational processes, dealing with shifting audiences. These changes challenge the Library’s staff to develop and adapt new competences.

Day 2: Sunday 17th: Kris Lambert Library. All day learning activities with Avril – our informal educator.

On this day, the classes were run by Avril. The subject of the classes referred to the previous day. The whole daily workshop was divided into two stages.

The aim of the first stage was to define (1) personal learning goals for each participant and to (2) describe them in context with social, civic, entrepreneurial and creative competences. In this exercise, we used an interesting technique of conducting interviews. We conducted interviews in groups of three, playing the following roles: reporter, interlocutor and interviewer.

You can find guidlines as to the point (1) and (2) in PDF form at the end of this report.

After defining and describing goals, the next exercise was about prioritizing among them. In the second stage, we made a distinction between goal and objective. Based on this distinction, we have broken down the learning objective so that it matches previously described goals.

Day 3 Monday 18th: Town Hall Ostend.

The Town Hall was designed by a greater Belgian modernist architect Victor Bourgeois. He designed a functional modernist building with three wings and flat roofs. Building has a great view of the sea-bay, which can be viewed from the building terrace, which serves as a favourite photo spot for the newly-weds getting married in Town Hall.

What we have learnt about the City activities in a cultural context:                                                                                                                                                                   
- Ostend has a very wide cultural scene: a cultural centre, an arts centre, a theatre and a film festivals, community arts organisation, an artistic educational service, a theatre company and an urban development organisation.                                                                                                                              
- There are more than 150 cultural organisations which offer a divers programme of cultural activities.                                                                                                                          
- The cultural goals are to enable cultural participation to everybody in order to strengthen social cohesion and community sense.                                                           
- To offer diverse and qualitative artistic, cultural and leisure activities, strengthen the artistic and social organisations, support artistic creation, valorise the cultural heritage.

So, with such large cultural scene a city has lots to offer not only to local communities, but also to a potential national and international visitors who are interested in culture and art.     
A very appropriate quote for today: “My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.” Peer Golkin. And so we did. We travelled to the Town Hall on our bikes, which is preferred means of transportation for locals.

Our working place for a morning was one of the great rooms with a viewing terrace. We were ’’visited’’ by 2 wedding parties which wanted to take their photos on the balcony. We also had an opportunity to meet the Mayor of Town, and have a photo with him taken.

During the morning session, we continued working on Dementia project with Hilde, KL Library's Changemaker (listen to her reflections). The Library as a Cultural representative needs to build it’s own structure in order to accommodate the Project and in a long term accommodate Dementia group. Library has already contacted various organisations in order to seek people who would like to take part in a project and share their story. Music was chosen as a starting point of conversation, because it triggers memories.                                                                        
Our main aim for this day was to match hopes and dreams and to find a fit between the needs of our target group and what we would like to offer to them.

The basis of our morning work was Simon Sinek methodology, Start with WHY (explained in Day 1).
(Here, you can read about Kris Lambert Library WHY) Here is what we did:                                                                                                                                              
- we talked about our own WHY in our professional lives, something that gave us a boost of energy                                                                                                                          
- we did an exercise about what memories, feelings, emotions trigger music. We shared a chosen piece of music, telling others what is so special about it, why we had chosen it, and how is it connected with our personal life – we shared a story.                                                                                                                                                                   
- we talked about the limbic and neocortex part of brain in a Dementia patient context                                                                                                                                           
- we learnt about the ”Radio Gaga”, a Flemish TV programme, in which 2 interviewers tour with their music trailer visiting various healthcare institutions. Both journalist invite people and their care takers to tell the story which is both recorded and broadcasted. One of the visited by them places was a home for people suffering from Dementia.

Radio Gaga is a great example of how media can help breaking the taboo on dementia and mental illness, how it can raise the awareness.
Also from the interview with one of the journalists we found out how little is known about dementia and any other mental illness in Flanders. The situation is very similar in Poland and most likely in other European countries. The study shows that Dementia will raise by 50% in 10 years period, there is an urgent need to react now. We need to teach younger generations, set the example. There is a room for sharing the knowledge and stories, both nationally and internationally.

Midday Break
Once again we had a chance to hop on our bikes, and experience a maritime side of town. Our guide was Martine Vandermaes, who is both very knowledgable and passionate about the history of her home town. We learnt about the history, 1st and 2nd War War, Atlantic Wall, maritime heritage, port, The Mercator.

In the afternoon session (back in the Kris Lambert Library) we continued our morning work. We concentrated on Value Proposition Canvas business model created by Alexander Osterwalder, which was first of all explained to us by Hilde. You can read here why this particular method was chosen by a Library.
Value Proposition Canvas was chosen in order to help us understand our target group (customer) needs and to design products / services our target group needs.  We worked as a team (brain storming) on Value Propositition and Customer Profile in conjunction with our Project:                                                                                                     
- Firstly on Customer Profile making segmentation on Customer Jobs, Gains and Pains                                                                                                                                            
- Secondly on the Value Map and its segments – Products and Services, Gain Creators, Pain Relievers.                                                                                                              
- Learnt about the techniques to gain customer insights.                                                                                                                                                  
- Upscaled our product-design inspired by De Bono (De Bono, Six Thinking Hats)                                                                                                                                    
- We did a systematic evaluation (by De Bono). It's a powerful decision-checking technique designed for group situations, where everyone explores the situation from own perspective at the same time. It can help you to look at problems from different perspectives, one at a time in order to avoid confusion.

Day 4 Tuesday 19th: Meeting with Foton representatives @ KrisLambert Library, and visit to Mariakerke.

Morning meeting with representatives of Foton non-profit organisation (more information on Foton on Day 5) to broaden our knowledge about our target group-Dementia audience.
What we have learnt:
- That there are about 60 different forms of dementia, the Alzheimer is the most common form                                                                                                                             
- That the average life spam of living with Dementia illness is 10-15 years.                                                                                                                                               
- That Dementia affects the orientation, memory, physical state, triggers the anxiety                                                                                                                                      
- That we do not need to give people with dementia a voice, they already have a voice. We need to create for them safe environment where they can use it.                      
- They need to be made partners in a project                                                                                                                                                                                           
- By being in the project their self esteem might increase                                                                                                                                                                                      
- That we need to behave as normal as possible towards the Dementia people
- Those who suffer from dementia remember the feeling they have of something and not the memory
- Routine is very important
- When communicating with dementia patients, patience, simplicity is required
- They need to be active, should listen to music, sing, create art etc.
- The initiative should come from the carer
- When meeting with other people – the group should be small
- There are always unpredictable factors when working with Dementia people
- The initial needs of a Dementia people need to come from their carer
- Library staff will need regular meetings when working with Dementia audience
After the meeting Mathias presented an updated document on previous day’s work on the Dementia project and summarised the findings.

In the afternoon we travelled by bikes along the beautiful coast, north from the Library to an area called Mariakerke to see small medieval Church of Our Lady of the Dunes - on the outskirts of the city. The church has a connection to a sea, an altar made with seashells, stained glass windows depicting sea and fishing scenes.

James Ensor, great Belgian painter and artist lived in Ostend most of his entire life. In his old age he was an honoured figure among his countrymen, and his daily walk made him a familiar sight in Ostend, where he died on 19 November 1949. He was buried in the churchyard of the visited by us church, called by locals - an Ensor Church.
Our guide and source of information was yet again Martine.

On our way back we visited Mariakerke Service and Meeting Center.
What we have learnt:
The City of Ostend established a network of Service and Meeting Centers in each of the eight neighbourhoods. These centers focus on information and education, meeting and social engagement, on well-being and care taking, with a special attention to vulnerable people and people with special needs.
The activities here are developed following the principles of ’ageing in time and place’. The idea is to improve the social contact between different generations, offer meaningful leisure activities. Each center is equipped with a professional team of workers and supported by many volunteers.
The place was full of elderly people, it was actually buzzing with a positive energy.
The center was bright, on the walls hanged colourful paintings made by children. The Centre’s Library was our stop for lunch and further work on the project.

After hours:
Thanks to Martine and tickets she provided, we had an opportunity to visit The Mu.Zee the Art Museum by the Sea and it’s latest exhibition – James Ensor and Leon Spilliaert. Two Masters of Ostend. Thank you Martine!
While traveling around we spotted colourful mini free libraries scattered around the town – a Library’s initiative – no doubt. Their aim is to inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering neighbourhood book exchanges. This initiative is growing in popularity around the world.

While traveling around we spotted colourful mini free libraries scattered around the town – a Library’s initiative – no doubt. Their aim is to inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering neighbourhood book exchanges. This initiative is growing in popularity around the world.

Despite the fact that Ostend is predominantly invaded by tourists during holidays, one might be surprised to learn how much is going on outside the season. The town is steeped in culture and all kinds of art – exhibitions, galleries, museums, murals, small sculpture figures looking down at passer-bys from atop.
Crystal Ship is a great example, it is a contemporary art festival that specializes in public space art, producing together with world-famous artists over 25 installations, sculptures and murals each year. Each year the Festival has different theme. The Tourist Office provides great maps with all installation points.

Day 5 Wednesday 20th: Meeting with Martine Meyer – City of Ostend; Visit to Fotonhuis Brugge.

Morning session was dedicated to our reflections and the evaluation of the Dementia project. We started with a presentation of our findings to Martine Meyer, a representative of the City of Ostend.
After lunch we took a train to Brugge for a visit to Fotonhuis organisation and meeting with Bart and Hilde, in order to deepen our knowledge about dementia and to learn about the organisation. On the way from the station we have learnt about water canals and how Brugge had lost its access to the sea.
About Foton:
- Foton is one of the first dementia centres in Belgium that provides knowledge, advice and training to professional care givers and volunteers. It is a walk-in house, meeting house.
- It tries to strengthen a cooperation between all partners in dementia care, that includes volunteers.
- It has been running a broad range of activities for more than15 years.
- It provides training for care givers, professional helpers and a broad public
- Approx 500 volunteers are trained to assist with approx 230 people with dementia (this figure varies from one year to another)
- Centre in Brugge provides documentation centre; meeting group where people with dementia can talk about their disease; offers musical afternoons (music relaxes patients, it connects people); organises literary evenings, Foton choir, seasonal celebrations.
- The house – simply designed, painted in white is also a peaceful meeting place where people with dementia and their families can meet, have a cup of tea or coffee.
- Foton has its own logo, designed by students – but chosen by people with dementia.

What we have learnt:
- We also learnt the objectives of Foton For a Dementia Friendly Brugge,
- about various accomplished actions in the community (Together for a dementia-friendly Brugge) for specific target groups: schools, societies, the cultural sector, hospitality industry, shopkeepers.
- about dementia guide, which guides in a simple way through the world of dementia,
- about missing persons project
- there are even dementia friendly guides in the museums of Brugge, called ‘’Memorable’’

Many objectives and ideas of the Fotonhuse could be transferred to Polish ‘ground’ and to organisations that work with elderly people.
We have already introduced to Martine Vandermaers a Polish cultural organisation, called CK Zamek in Poznan and a cultural worker (Bartek Lis, who also works with Impact Foundation) who has relevant expertise in working with elderly groups, and in creation of cultural projects for this target group. This cultural centre runs a project called Zamek Otwarty (Open Castle). The project is dedicated to Seniors 65+, group with disabilities. This is (in Poland) the most excluded group from social life, with no access to culture.

Anyone interested in Kris Lambert experiment, and the outcome of their Dementia project, please read the article: It’s about Collection & Connection on Kris Lambert I_Improve EU Blog.

River Cities visiting Ostend, I_Improve Project