Geertrui Seneels (Belgium)



THE HUMAN IMPACT: Migrant and refugee children often grow up with opposing cultural contexts. Many of the newcomers experience stressors such as loss of social networks and status, language barriers, differences in cultural codes, poverty and unemployment. These can have important effects on identity, wellbeing and development, and there are few culturally-appropriate and accessible resources for mental health.

THE NUMBERS IMPACT: Based in Belgium, Solentra is becoming an expertise center and distribution tool to spread PACCT (mental health) methodology across Belgium and Europe. The methodology has been spread with partners such as the European Asylum Support Office, and was named as one of the top 3 practices across 27 EU member states by the International Organization for Migration.

HOW DOES IT WORK? Solentra has pioneered a culturally sensitive and community-based mental healthcare system for refugees and migrants in Europe. They are broadening the support network of refugee and migrant families by training and mobilizing professionals working closely with children, creating a standardized training program to help community professionals become more attuned to both the cultural differences of diverse populations and the psychosocial aspects of migration, and build outreach to reconcile different beliefs about wellbeing between different cultures. Acting as an intercultural and mediating organization, Solentra’s unique PACCT methodology is a culturally comprehensible, community-based and holistic entry point for mental healthcare. Finally, they have tenaciously advocated for greater cultural sensitivity and community-based approaches to mental health care for refugee and migrant children for the past 10 years. Solentra aims to integrate psychological support into all work with refugee and migrant children to ensure they can flourish in their new communities. She has partnered with actors at all levels of society – from educational institutions to citizen-sector organizations.

WHO STARTED IT: From Antwerp, Geert Serneels studied international law for 7 years, hoping to contribute to the justice system. However, when she was promoted to head of her division (first woman at the company) for Alcatel in Paris, Geert understood that a career in law would never help her achieve real social justice. After finishing her degree in psychology, Geert overhauled a small program UZ Brussels hospital into a 13 full-time employee organization with a €2 million yearly budget. There she developed the PACCT methodology.

HOW HELLO EUROPE IS HELPING: Working to connect Solentra with key players in the EU level to help expansion and model spread, as well as connections as they build out new university curriculum.

WHAT THEY NEED NOW: Support in spreading methodology without necessarily creating new organizations, implementation partners, and conversations at policy level to improve mental healthcare protocols for people on the move.

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