Seichi Ihara, director of Day Center Iruka
Snoezelen, Ad Verheul and Day Center Iruka
How are you? I am Seichi Ihara, Director of Day Center Iruka. Thank you very much for your kind support. There were persons with severe disabilities, who needs to be taken care of, and had no place else but at their homes to live safely and peacefully. For such people, Day Center Iruka was established in 1996 to offer them time to enjoy themselves. When we came to address to you the world of Snoezelen, it could not be possible without telling the history of Iruka. Our mission starts with protecting the rights of the persons with severe disabilities.
Our primary intention and goal of our Center was for the persons with severe disabilities to be treated as human, and get them to have pride in their existence and live lives with emotional-richness and satisfaction.
In 1996, there was not even an official term that would refer to our clients with severe disabilities; those who were unable to speak or get out of bed. They could not speak up for change in legislation or social system. The running or our center was difficult: we needed good facility, we did not afford it, we could not have many clients, that made our management difficult. Our enthusiasm was driving us isolated. We understood how hard life was for the family of the persons with disabilities and were in despair. Trouble with their family, which arose despite our determination to help them, nearly discouraged us from taking it any further. But we could not give up going on with our Day Center, one of which that were very few at that time.
It was then I met with Snoezelen. The founders created Snoezelen with warm consideration for the persons with severe disabilities and with high aspiration to cultivate their personality with special equipment, regardless of making profits. One of them was Ad Verheul, working at an institute for persons with severe physical disabilities, Centre De Hartenberg, Ede, the Netherlands. As soon as I, in great despair, knew about him, wanted to go see him. I thought it would give me courage to continue with our Day Center.
There was one company that dealt in Snoezelen supply, COS International. The president Mr. Kosuga was a close friend of Ad, and he devoted himself in effective utilisation of Snoezelen, traveling in and outside the country regardless of his time and expense.
According to Mr. Kosuga, “A merchant should fail in business if he is too devoted to the merchandise. But one anecdote with a person with disability brought me to loving Snoezelen this much.” Yes, he had great empathy with the mission of Ad Verheul. I asked Mr. Kosuga if I could go and visit Ad. It was in 2006 when he kindly took me to De Hartenberg with him.
Centre De Hartenberg was in the heart of the great nature, about two hours by train and car from Amsterdam. Ad greeted me warmly. I never forget his gentleness and his big palm when we shook hands. I was so overwhelmed that I could not but speak little of what I wanted to say. Still, it was a time of great consolation. And I had a special Snoezelen session. It was a miraculous experience visiting De Hartenberg and learning about this idea-filled Snoezelen De Hartenberg. There were many persons with disabilities and those, like us, who were devoted to assisting them. In their happy faces, I saw their active attitude towards living, the spirit that lies in their hearts. Snoezelen touched them sensually and generated a shared feeling of the joy of life. I received mild but steady encouragement. I realised that my mission was an important one in enabling all people to live enriched lives and felt pride in playing a small role in it. The natural and human climate of the Netherlands taught me the importance of respect for people and of creativity that helps us tackle with barriers.
During this trip, Mr. Kosuga told me about the value of the people of the Netherlands: the value of diversity. Countries border with one another in Europe and the Netherlands has lost everything in many wars. Through the experience of repeated rebuilding of the country, they employed diverse values and learned that diversity was the key to enriching their community.
When someone starts something, the others respect his/her initiative do not interfere with it. Knowing how some excellent personal sense of value has saved the country, they just look to see what is going to come out. They either stay quiet, or eventually give a helping hand. They know something new does not start from conventional set of values. They are happy to see that someone create something new. Then they have a renewed sense of the importance of respecting others. In comparison, I could not but feel that we Japanese lack the power of imagination and tend to resort to excuses.
The nature of De Hartenberg, adjacent to Kröller Muller National Park is a spiritual place with various animals living in it. It touches my heart and makes me feel that I am alive. There are 200 persons with disabilities living here. They have active life there. The Netherlands must be full of such people. Everyone looks open-minded and honest.
Summer in the Netherlands is the season of white nights. At sunset, trees give dark shadows, leaves on trees shine swing in the seasonal breeze. Ah, this is the birthplace of Snoezelen.
Ad created Snoezelen. It is the activity that centres everybody’s independent emotions. An activity that makes us become who we are and feel the life. He selected activities among many that he has tried with the persons with severe disabilities. He chose only the ones that they liked, for their smiling face always tell the truth.
When a child is at play in Snoezelen Room, grownups, who always tell lies, should not interfere with him or tell him what to do. It is the will of God that makes him want to do it. That is why he is smiling.
Thanks to your cooperation, Day Center Iruka came to its 20th anniversary last year. The seminar commemorating the anniversary at Suminoe Koen Park was held to introduce Ad and De Hartenberg to our community. And four months later, today, we have this Suminoe Ward Office Snoezelen Event
De Hartenberg has its Healthcare Manager, Mr. Gert ten Hoven. He played an important role in our seminar. He is a person of astonishing talents. He has quick eye to spot something of great potential and rare creativity in fostering people. Thanks to his contribution, De Hartenberg is successfully sharing the site, including the animal park, with the community; it means sharing of hearts. I am sure he will continue to make use of his talents in enabling people to share hearts and to coexist.
I would like to ask you all to keep informed of the development and to give us encouragement. Day Center Iruka and De Hartenberg. Furthermore, please join in our circle. Let us live together.
I would like to give my heartfelt gratitude to the Dutch Consulate General in Japan, Japan Snoezelen Association, COS International, Co. Ltd., and all parties that made this event possible. On behalf of our clients, too, I give these words of gratitude. Thank you very much.
We co-sponsor this event with Suminoe Ward. Would you, people of Suminoe, please enjoy Snoezelen.
Ad always says, “Please come to the Netherlands. Come to De Hartenberg. Let your heart play with us here.”