2015 Public Peace Prize Laureate
in the Local Peacemaker category
MICHEL ENGLEBERT is the Laureate in the LOCAL PEACEMAKER category. He received 47 % of the public support (and nearly double the minimum points required to become a finalist in his category).
Michel Englebert is a humanist and an idealist whose life path always involved helping others. He worked with Doctors Without Borders for many years in countries suffering from famine and misery, but returned to his homeland when his second son, Thibaut, was born. Thibaut was born different, and Michel and his wife chose to give up their humanitarian dreams to offer their son the best accompaniment possible.
Michel quickly realized that the health system in Belgium was greatly lacking when it came to housing for handicapped adults. When Thibaut reached the end of high school, Michel decided that rather than complain about this shortfall, he would put all his energy into launching a residential housing project for handicapped adults.
This marvelous project opened its doors in Lasne, Belgium in February 2013, after nearly ten years of preparation. Spurred on by Michel, a center called L’Essentiel (the Essential) came into being, thanks to a team of volunteers and sponsors who gave their hearts and souls to make this leap of faith become a reality. Today, this little paradise offers thirty rooms for handicapped adults, a daycare for twenty children and, soon, a day centre for fifty people. Participants have access to different resources: a hydrotherapy centre, an art workshop, judo and dance classes, a snoezelen room (a controlled multisensory environment), and more…
“Both visitors and families agree: those living at l’Essentiel are happy. They know that goodness and generosity exist; they saw this man sacrifice everything for the poorest of the poor, the handicapped…. this man who led others to be generous and good with handicapped people who are so in need of love… this man willing to struggle against the indifference towards every kind of handicap proclaim against all odds that they deserve our help in offering them a dignified life. They know that they can count on Michel Englebert who is fighting for the Essential in their lives.”
“The creation of l’Essentiel itself is Michel’s achievement, ten years of daily dedication, of believing in his project, of opportunities that he did not pass up. Michel is very intuitive and is always bringing good people together.
– Teambuilding: he managed to surround himself with competent people who in turn helped to choose the right people who believed in and stuck with his project.
– Michel trusts his partners and gives them responsibilities. He believes in the strengths of each individual, a true humanist.
– He looks for solutions for each person’s difficulties, whether they be residents or part of his team, he looks for the best solutions so that his project can be at its very best. He finds the most qualified people for the autistic residents, a psychologist for the team supervisors, and another to support the emotional and sexual lives of the residents. He doesn’t try to be everything for everyone, he looks for solutions as part of a team, he experiments, he’s a seeker.
– Michel opened his center to every form of handicap, from all types of social settings, he’s not afraid to mix different people, he believes in meetings and is open to differences, he is a true idealist.
– Michel doesn’t get discouraged; he anticipates difficulties and bounces back quickly and with optimism. He is very persevering.
– He doesn’t take advantage of his hierarchal position and does not hesitate to help out in the field, he’s very hands-on.
In working with Michel, I was able to develop my own skills, even those I didn’t know I had. I grew in confidence and motivation, in a joyful atmosphere, without feeling controlled or directed. I’m allowed to disagree with him, to express myself, and to create my own projects.”
“Michel asked us this question: what is the Essential in our lives?
The Essential is to love, even the poorest, those who may not even be able to talk to us, to hug us or to shake our hand….”
Listen to the report on L’Essentiel (French only)