Sustainability Superhero: hoe teamlid Bernd mens, planeet en dier helpt
19/07/2022 • Ibn Renders

Sustainability Superhero: how team member Bernd helps people, animals and the planet

Have we ever told you that we are proud of our employees? I think so! Because just like your grandmother, who can't stop talking about her cleaning lady at the annual family gatherings, who doesn't dust the tops of the cupboards, we can't stop talking about our colleagues. Today, we are a family of over 220 people who are only too happy to achieve their goals and show the best of themselves. Similarly, it does not take much effort to create enough enthusiasm to commit to the UN Sustainability Goals throughout the whole company: our colleagues are already working on it themselves. We took Bernd van Velsen out of his concentration for a while to have a conversation about what he is doing to help people, the planet and the animals.

Five years ago, Bernd started working as a Solution Engineer in the proud 'Code-Busters' team for our client IDEWE, an external service for prevention and protection at work. In any case, it's a good thing that you can help a customer to make all kinds of workplaces healthy and safe, but in his spare time Bernd is doing many things as well. When he comes home, he greets a foster child in addition to his two children. And that was a purposeful choice, says Bernd: “We made a conscious choice to open up our family to a foster child after having our own two children. There are different forms of foster care. Perspective foster care (long term fostering), short term fostering (max. 2 times 6 months), emergency care (short term, but urgent), and supportive foster care”.

Due to the different types of foster care, Bernd and his family were already able to help a lot of foster children: “We have one child who has been with us for over 9 years now, and also have already temporarily cared for 8 other children in our family in the forms of emergency foster care and short term foster care. In practice, this means that we are responsible for day-to-day care. Sometimes we also speak at information evenings to introduce people to foster care. During these evenings we tell our experiences as a foster family and what fun moments and pitfalls there can be.”

Pleegzorg Vlaanderen - voeten met hartje

Becoming a foster family is of course not something you just simply do. Bernd and his family did this through the organization named Pleegzorg Vlaanderen. Bernd explains: “Foster care is a form of support for children, young people and adults with a disability or psychiatric problem, who are temporarily unable or allowed to live at home for various reasons. Foster families offer shelter and care to foster children or foster adults during that time. They do so voluntarily, but with the support of a foster care service. Foster care can last until the foster child or foster adult can go home or live independently.”

When asked whether Bernd would recommend foster care to others, he has his thoughts… Sometimes he thinks it is better to help foster families and children in a different way: “I always find it risky to recommend foster care to someone, because it has to be a conscious choice that has to fit into your life. But you can also support foster care and foster children in other ways. Help to raise awareness of foster care via social media, or, for example, to make a donation to foster care via via purchases in web shops.”

In order to be able to give his children and foster children a bright future on a healthy planet, Bernd and his family also live as sustainably as possible. He explains one of his most drastic actions, for example: “We try to save money in many areas at home. Sometimes even to the level that we get strange looks from our environment :-). One of the most drastic actions of this year is lowering the heating at home by wearing an extra sweater. In addition, we recently invested in a home automation system to use lighting in a smarter way. And we also prefer to make small or short trips by bike. We try to find a new destination for our old stuff and materials that we no longer use (De Kringwinkel, moeders voor moeders, 2dehands, De Weggeefwinkel).”

Bernd and his family also try to contribute in the field of nutrition, for example by using an app. “That's TooGoodToGo,” explains Bernd. “With this app, (food) stores, restaurants, liquor stores and flower shops can indicate whether they have products that are about to expire and can therefore no longer be sold. And you can save this from the garbage can for a low amount of money. Good for your wallet and the environment.”

Speaking of rescue, Bernd doesn't go to Blankenberge at the weekend to get over-enthusiastic swimmers out of the sea. What he does is thinking about how he can help animals. “Through the animal shelter of Sint-Truiden we take in kittens 'in season' that have to get used to human contact. This is mainly to keep them out of the shelter and so that they can get used to human contact as quickly as possible. We therefore ensure that they become social and that they have received the necessary vaccinations, and that they are also castrated / sterilized. If all this is done, they will be put on an adoption list.”

During our own ACA Warmest Weekend, which we have started since the start of the pandemic, Bernd organizes a litter tour. Together with other team members, he sets out with the necessary material to fill a lot of bags with waste that should never have been there. But he does not only do this during the Warmest Weekend. “Most cities and towns count on help from volunteers to periodically keep a part of their city / town clean by collecting litter. You will receive all the resources for this (turnip greens, gloves, garbage bags, ring for waste bag to hold) for free. You can do this wherever and whenever you want, and even in other Flemish regions. I try to fill a bag with litter at least once a month.” But is it necessary to get out of your seat every month for this? Unfortunately yes, according to Bernd: “Unfortunately, finding waste is never a problem, especially on quiet lanes and bushes a lot of waste is dumped. There is also an app 'WePlog' where you can easily see where no litter has been collected for a long time. This can also help to know where it is 'worth the effort' to take a look. I also walk a lot myself, so it is a small effort to take a waste bag with me on a hiking trip.”

Girl collecting litter

And that seems like something we can try ourselves during our next walk. Just like the many other tips Bernd has given us. We have listed them below:

  • Support foster children by raising awareness of the organization through social media or other ways. Or make a donation to Pleegzorg Vlaanderen via
  • Think about savings at home. Turn your heating down a little and take the bike more often.
  • Give your things you don’t need anymore a new destination via De Kringwinkel, Moeders voor moeders, or Weggeefwinkel
  • Use the TooGoodToGo app so less food will be thrown away.
  • Adopt your animal in an animal shelter like Dierenasiel ‘Dierenvrienden’
  • Take a garbage bag with you on your next hike to pick up trash. You can find routes via the WePlog app where no other litter collector has been passed for a long time.