By Mary Jane Roy
8 October 2012 - updated 28 May 2013
It was a warm, sunny afternoon as we arrived in the village of Homps, in the Gers region of Southern France. My husband Rene and I were on our way to Narbonne for a two week holiday. We had decided to stop on our way down and visit Puyssentut, an initiative started by Angela Wood and her partner Dirk-Karel de Geus.
As a member of ACCESS’s Cancerlink team, I was excited to meet the people behind this project. Having had a personal experience with breast cancer, the idea of this couple creating a retreat for people who have or have had cancer spoke directly to my heart.
What is their goal?To create an inspiring place that supports people mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually in their recovery and healing process.
Image: Puyssentut website
Their passion in reaching this goal is very evident as we pull onto their property and are greeted by a smiling Angela. Together with Dirk, she has uprooted herself from busy Amsterdam to create their dream in an ancient farmhouse in a beautifully tranquil setting. Since July 2011, they have lived on a construction site, housing themselves and their two young daughters in a renovated wing of the house.
Tea and water are served at the oversized table in the open courtyard. Angela regales us with the tale of how they came to be in this lovely area. We had just driven through acres and acres of sunflowers, all with their faces raised to the sun. The hay fields surrounding the farmhouse are being ploughed, the hum of the tractor in the background. The wildflowers in the garden are in full bloom and the swimming pool reflects the sky invitingly. It’s no surprise that this location captured the imaginations and hearts of Dirk and Angela.
Dirk arrives home from a shopping trip, the car laden with groceries. Rene leaves to help him unload while Angela and I continue our conversation sitting in the shade in the courtyard. What I learn is that Dirk, a Brabant based business man, is the primary motivation behind their decision. Three of his close friends were diagnosed with cancer over a one year period. He was very involved in their recovery, and saw firsthand how draining the experience was for each of them. He also realised how few resources there were to support them emotionally throughout their experience.
Filling the gap
This spurred Dirk on to want to fill the gap and he came up with the idea of a retreat: Where the atmosphere would be one of hope, and where guests could return home after a visit equipped with the tools needed to support their future health and wellbeing. As a psychotherapist, Angela is deeply aware of the challenges facing someone with cancer. Together they travelled extensively in France looking at locations. Puyssentut captured their imaginations and their hearts.
Continuing the progress
They continue to need financial help. The barn needs additional renovations. Here guests will be able to participate in activities through which they can come deeper into contact with themselves and others; find peace and acceptance; discover hidden and new aspects of themselves; and learn new tools that they can take into their daily lives.
Individuals and companies can also contribute to the Puyssentut Foundation which has been set up to make it possible for anyone, regardless of circumstances to stay at Puyssentut and to reap the benefits of a stay there. If you are moved to help this wonderful initiative, please visit their website at www.puyssentut.org/donating or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trainers and therapists in a wide variety of fields are also needed. There are 4 therapy rooms and, of course, soon the activity space. If you feel drawn to share your knowledge and skills, tell Angela what you can offer: www.puyssentut.org/contact or email@example.com.