‘Voluntary work brings great satisfaction’

Bart (50) sees life from a different perspective since an accident put him in a wheelchair. ‘I really enjoy helping Trias,’ he said.
It was 15 years ago that disaster struck. During an expedition to Morocco, Bart's car blew a tyre, aggressively catapulting him out of the car and throwing him against a rock. 
Since then, Bart has been confined to a wheelchair. This was a sharp blow to his dreams, both professionally and personally, but at no point did he let it get him down.
Bart: 'I have had great jobs at some top companies but now I know how fragile life is. As a result, I can enjoy the small things in life far more than before. I also have more time to travel; I love people and I am open to other cultures and languages. Four years after my accident, I crossed Colombia on my own. I wanted to test myself to see how far I can go, both literally and figuratively. In fact, my mental rehabilitation started with that trip to Colombia. ' 
You fell in love with South America?
 'Yes, indeed. And since then I have also been to Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. At the end of last year, it was the turn of Brazil. I spent a week crossing the states of Minas Gerais and Goiás with the people from Trias Brazil. We did 1,500 kilometres on paved dirt roads. You can't compare me with [Belgian disabled triathelete] Marc Herremans, but for a wheelchair user that was a nice challenge [laughs].’
How did you come into contact with Trias?
‘Purely by chance! I met your coordinator for the programmes in Brazil on a plane to Lisbon. We talked for the whole flight and I quickly realised that with my experience and my network I can offer something to Trias.’
Do you still feel that way after your adventure in Brazil?
‘Absolutely. I talked a lot with the team members of Trias Brazil and with the local partners. These are solid federations that strengthen farmers' cooperatives and can therefore make a real difference to family farmers. I noticed that during a number of the visits.'
Tell us more.
‘On a mud farm, I met a young farmer specialized in beekeeping. Thanks to the support of his cooperative, he earns enough income from this activity to maintain his mother and grandmother. These are poor people who, with a small helping hand, are able to find a real solution for their most important needs. That's nice, right? And believe me, there is still a lot of poverty in rural Brazil.’
How do you plan to support Trias?
'With my management experience, I can volunteer to review the projects and programmes. Trias can then apply the experience and know-how that this generates in other countries. I would also like to mobilise my network to raise funds for specific projects. There are two possibilities on the table: the creation of a fund for young people or support for an agricultural school that, if it doesn't have enough money, must turn away the children of family farmers. I feel great about the idea that I will soon be able to bring a little bit of value into the lives of those people.’