This week has been a particularly busy one at Eurodiaconia. We welcomed 5 of our members from the Czech Republic to Brussels to meet with MEP’s, European Commission officials, the Czech Permanent Representation and others. The study visit was a great success in bringing Europe closer to the work being done in the Czech Republic and building up networks and contacts that will be important going forward. Keeping with the eastern Europe theme this week also saw the Visegrad Platform meeting take place in Hungary. Members from Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland gathered to discuss approaches to Alzheimer’s and dementia and two of our team were with them to bring in the European perspective and share information on what is happening at EU level on this increasingly social and health priority. And in Brussels, we held our 4th Annual Breakfast Meeting in the European Parliament. Our  focus was on how diaconal organisations provide services and advocacy for the long term unemployed, particularly those that developing skills. We have many members engaged in this work, providing tailored support for those who find the labour market increasingly distant and who need accompaniment and supporting services to access and manage their entry into employment. We were joined by our member Stockholm City Mission who impressed the gathered audience of MEP’s, Commission and government representatives, social partners and NGO’s with the breadth of their work in engaging people in to work. A running theme in their work is that every person has skills, no one is unskilled…it is a question about supporting and empowering people to build on the skills they have and provide access to opportunities for furthering skills and learning. I was able to talk about several other members work in this area and the success rates being delivered – anything from 25 -30% of people entering permanent work after an extended period of unemployment. It was encouraging to see that even after the event had official ended our institutional guests stayed on to further discuss how our members experience could be built into policy debates and how seeing some our members’ work could be further showcased to European policy makers – very encouraging and a testament to how our members are able to bring the reality of social challenges on the ground to the European level for better and more effective policy making.

But sometimes not everything at Eurodiaconia is about the policy – it is about the people. And this week we were delighted to attend a very special event in Paris where Jean Fontanieu, known to many as Secretary General of our French member, Féderation Entraide Protestante, was awarded the French Legion of Honour for his work in Diaconia. Seeing Jean recognised in this way by the French Republic is testament to his commitment and enthusiasm for the work of Diaconia across France and in Europe but also to the esteem in which the work of FEP is held in France. We are delighted for Jean to be honoured in this way!  What a great way to end the week!

Have a good weekend,