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Accueil Discover the village of Aigues Vertes, one of its kind in Europe and throughout the world! Bernex / Canton of Geneva / Switzerland

Discover the village of Aigues Vertes, one of its kind in Europe and throughout the world! Bernex / Canton of Geneva / Switzerland

  • Social Life : Life Project
  • Europe : Switzerland
  • Fiche d'expérience

Par Handiplanet le 17/11/2015

A village where all the inhabitants have an intellectual disability or mental health problems. But their level of autonomy allows them to manage fully economic, social and political life of this city.

1. context:

The village of Aigues Vertes is located in Bernex in Switzerland, 20 km from Geneva. It was built 50 years ago, in a remarkable natural setting. The village counts 115 habitants, bewteen 18 and 87 years, and counts 18 houses. It is a village among others, except for one thing: all its inhabitants - including the Mayor, elected by the villagers, have an intellectual disability or mental health problems.


Founded in 1960, Aigues Vertes was built by parents of children with disabilities to allow their children to have a place to live and work. The village hosted the first years ten patients, who lived in a 'vacuum' with their families and their educators. Since 2001, the village is open and the residents can come and go as they wish. The Jean for example remains in the village throughout the week but  attends mass in Geneva every Sunday.

It is a unique village, which offers an open framework in which they can carry out a professional activity, and flourish freely and normally among other people with disabilities (adults who have at least 18 years old). They can stay there all their lives, without being transfered from one institution to another, as some of the inhabitants have experienced.

3. The Organization of the village:

Upstream, either  institutions or families request the admission to the village of Aigues Vertes. All requests are channelled through the Canton of Geneva. For each newcomer, the procedure is the following: a first course of observation of 15 days/3 weeks during which the team of the Foundation Aigues Vertes, which accompanies and coaches the villagers, will determine with the person if the village is the right place for him or her, according to his desires, abilities and level of autonomy. Then if this internship is compelling, a second probationary period of 3 months will aim to refine the results of the first, so the new villagers can at the end of this period have a real place within the community.

People live in common houses, where they each have their own room. Celine, 26 years old, suffers from schizophrenia and mental retardation. She is one of the youngest residents, and lives in a House with 10 other villagers who have between 20 and 57 years. Meals are in common, around a table, for more of conviviality. All inhabitants have a professional activity. Celine worked in the textile workshop for 2 years. Previously, when she lived in a home for  disabled people, she was working in a private company whose production rate was too high.

Emilio, meanwhile, is a vegetable producer. Emilio is 33 years old and has been living in Aigues Vertes for 14 years now. He was born with mental retardation, he is aware of being different. He suffered rejection and physical abuse of other children when he was young, but today Emilio is a young entrepreneur who plants, cultivates and harvests vegetables for sale on its weekly stand near Geneva with Alexis, another villager. The turnover of Emilio serves to feed the village Fund. Apart from his work, the other passion of Emilio is Eddy Mitchell: as soon as a day os over, he takes the bus for a 20 minute ride  to go to Geneva and buy the records of his favorite artist.

4 means:

In the village, there are no doctors, just educators. 90 educators are there to accompany them in everyday gestures and so that they all can benefit from a frame custom throughout their lives. In the House where Céline lives, two educators are present. Their disability pensions allow them to pay hosting fees.

The daily life of villagers is funded by public and private grants. Their work allows them to earn between 1 and €4 per hour.

How do you see the future ?

The village is in constant expansion, and the waiting list for admission is long. In terms of infrastructure, renovations and construction will allow to open new places. A restructuring and reorientation of support provided is also underway, within the pedagogical team  the disabilities of the new hosted people are not the same as those of the people who had lived in Aigues Vertes for the past 30 or 40 years. Accompanying and support methods have to readapt to these 'new' kind of disabilities.

As for the inhabitants, Céline is happy to live in the village for the moment. But it won't stay that she'll stay here throughout her life: she would like in the future to settle down with her boyfriend, who lives in a home not far away. For the moment, Céline is under mandatory contraception and cannot choose by herself to be pregnant. Her parents will decide whether or not she can have a child and, when is the appropriate, time. As for Jean, 67 years old and suffering from autism, he has lived in Aigues Vertes for 50 years, since the construction of the village. He often visits the Aigues Vertes cementry were the former villagers have been buried, people he has known. "It was best for them," he said, particularly as there are more newcomers. John knows that he will end his life in the village and has already booked the location of his grave.

If, like us, this plug did you react, one advice: go visit them!


Langue d'origine : Français
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