Since 1993, the European Social Services Conference (ESSC), which is the European Social Network (ESN)’s annual event, has brought thousands of senior professionals from all sectors together with the aim of exchanging knowledge to improve services and to transform people’s lives. At our 25th conference in Malta, the Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) was invited to highlight its innovative social inclusion sport programme, which involves many service users. We welcomed Harry Fairchild, the world’s first ever table-tennis coach with Down’s Syndrome, to share his story in the conference’s Project Forum. Hoang Nguyen, a young refugee from Vietnam, and Tim Holtam, the founder of BTTC, explained in a panel session how the participation of Hoang in the club helped him to integrate in the city with other young people of his age. Here is what Lindsey Fairchild (Harry’s Mother) had to say of the conference’s BTTC experience:

Harry felt safe and comfortable amongst the many delegates. It made me realise just how truly welcoming everyone had been. You gave Hoang the opportunity to speak about his experiences prior and post BTTC. I saw him visibly grow in confidence, he spoke clearly and described his journey in a way which was both moving and heart-warming. We were all so proud of him and he told me he was not at all nervous (although he had expected to be), he said he just felt really good! We mixed it up a bit, we got involved in the conference, played ping pong, met some really interesting people from Europe and farther afield.. All in all, it was a truly memorable trip and one I know we would repeat in an instant.

You can also see a snap shot from their time at the event in a short video here.

We are asking each and everyone of our members, delegates attending the event, friends and partners to donate a small fee, so we can raise enough money for more service users to attend the conference. It will be a great opportunity for not only the service users to meet the people who plan, manage, and fund social services, but most importantly for professionals to meet, share and gain knowledge and experience from the people they are meant to help. For us to improve services, we must learn from the people that need it the most.

Please donate here!