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The Boscana Foundation in Barcelona: pioneers in care for the disabled

The Boscana Foundation in Barcelona: pioneers in care for the disabled

Elena de Carandini Raventós, Directora del Boscana HUB y Patrona de la Fundación Boscana


What does Boscana do?

Boscana cares for people with intellectual disabilities throughout their lives and also looks after their families. We have an excellent team of more than 30 people, most of them women, who are keen to innovate and undergo training in order to increase our users' quality of life. Our facilities are surrounded by a wonderful wood.

When and by whom was the foundation founded?

My grandparents Jesús Raventós and Tere Chalbaud founded Boscana in 1961. At that time there were no centers in Barcelona to care for people with intellectual disabilities, so they were pioneers. Later, at the request of the mayor of Barcelona, my grandparents helped to create the first municipal center with the support of their then director. They also created scholarships for researchers and set up the Begoña Raventós Documentation Center as a repository for research on disability. They invited experts to Barcelona, interviewed them, and transmitted the research to families and professionals.

I was a volunteer as a child and started working at Boscana in 2011, first as head of fundraising and then as general manager. I have recently taken charge of innovation for the Boscana Hub, whose aim is to generate synergies between business and the voluntary sector and to discover new lines of business. These include training health professionals to provide the best possible care for people with intellectual disabilities.

What do you like most about your job?

I love dealing with people and their families and I appreciate the joy they bring you. I also love the ongoing innovation at Boscana and seeing the happy faces of the corporate volunteers doing team-building at the foundation.

And what do you like least?

I hate it when I am unable to convey what we do at Boscana: there are still people who "pity" people with intellectual disabilities. And when we can't care for all the people who want places.

What does your institution stand out for?

Boscana was a pioneer in the field of intellectual disabilities at a time when there were no special centers and schools did not admit children with intellectual disabilities.

I remember a family with a young daughter with intellectual disabilities who came from Dubai. She didn't want to leave the house or socialize. The family heard about Boscana, a beautiful place surrounded by trees in Barcelona, and they didn't think twice about flying here in their private jet. They saw Boscana and they loved it.

What is your main challenge?

Working towards the inclusion of people with disabilities; achieving synergies with related bodies; and the sustainability of the foundation. We have an important challenge ahead of us: we are going to construct a residence for the elderly. In the light of the pandemic, it is really important to locate it in Sarrià in a natural setting.

Where is Boscana located? Why was this location chosen?

Boscana is located in Sarrià. The site was selected because it was surrounded by trees, which is why it was called Boscana. The founders strongly believed that trees are a natural medicine for people with intellectual disabilities, (as they are, in fact, for all of us).

What do you like most about the neighbourhood where you work?

The village atmosphere; families going for walks; children going to school, local stores. It is a very pleasant neighborhood to live and work in and you can walk to most places. At Boscana we have an activity called "neighborhood resources", which involves participating in activities at the Clarà library, going shopping for groceries, and donating to the Caritas center in Sarrià, etc.

How important is Barcelona for Casa Asia?

We love Barcelona, since there are so many things we can do: we go the mountains, for trips on the boats around the port, trekking in Collserola, and we can play tennis in the Can Caralleu sports center, etc.

Which city would you compare Barcelona to?

With San Francisco in California. I worked near San Franciso in the Napa Valley years ago and the size of the city and the quality of life reminded me a lot of Barcelona. I was reminded of the people of Barcelona by the hard-working, discreet, friendly people who were so welcoming to outsiders. In fact, I invited several friends from San Francisco to Barcelona and they felt very much at home here.

What kind of city should Barcelona resemble?

None; it should have its own. Barcelona is unique, with its Mediterranean style and its proximity to the rest of Europe.

What good practices from other cities would you like Barcelona to adopt?

I would like Barcelona to become a hub for innovation and future trends in care for dependent persons. Given the number of Northern Europeans who come to Spain to retire, we should really be the experts.

And we need culture to nourish the soul. I would very much like us to put the concerts of the Palau de la Música and the operas at the Liceu on the international calendar, as in Salzburg. I worked as international director at the Palau de la Música, and all our visiting artists were enchanted by the city. We need to do more to spread the name of Barcelona and bring leading artists to the city.

What do you ask of the Barcelona of the future?

Barcelona should have the ambition to lead in a variety of different areas and all the administrations should work harmoniously together with the private sector to attract talent to Barcelona and ensure it remains one of the very best cities in the world to live and work in.

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