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Exit Koen, enter Cyriel

One team builder who goes, another one who is comes in. Koen Mertens passes the key of Maks adults to Cyriel Kaviani. A double interview.
How long did you work at Maks?

Koen: I joined Maks from July 2017, so just over 3.5 years. Adding it up like that, it seems longer than I thought. Time has flown by.

Cyriel, you have just started? When did you start and what was your first impression?

I started on 16 March 2020; two days before the first lockdown. But I did know the organisation a bit before I started. My first impression was astonishment. The organisation responds to very local needs in Brussels. Maks tries to impart knowledge to people so that they themselves can influence their own lives. I find that admirable.

Without taking into account the official mission and vision and so on, what does Maks mean to you?

Cyriel: For me Maks means a response to a problem in society. Maks is an organisation that stands on the barricade for those who do not have the time, energy or knowledge to do so at all. Maks stands for that to me. Above all, it stands up for those people. I am convinced that organisations like Maks do not just provide much-needed services. Maks focuses on digital as a spearhead to arm people in society. We call this striving for Digital Inclusion. Digital inclusion, as demonstrated during this sanitary crisis, is a primary concern. But Maks is more to me. Maks is a centre where many problems come into focus, individually and socially, Maks is a catalyst for me: it makes the difficulties apparent. We help people gain insight into these problems and empower them to do something about them themselves.

I return the question, what do you think of Maks?

Koen: For me, Maks is like a learning school. We organise computer classes, teach people how best to apply for a job, … We try to give our participants the necessary knowledge and experience so that they can participate in society as they wish. But Maks employees also get the chance to follow training, gain professional skills, share knowledge and experience, … Maks is a small – actually quite bigger than I initially expected – place in Brussels where people can participate in the city’s social life. However, Maks is also a place where opportunities and challenges become visible, for actual people, but also for Brussels and society more generally. Our proximity in the neighbourhoods gives us the opportunity to do something concrete about it. And we do, by engaging in learning and participation processes. Through these processes, we seek to empower people so that they can take direction in their own lives and seize the opportunities to meet challenges.

So what did you do at Maks during that time? What kind of tasks did you take on?

Koen: Oh well, I did do a bit of everything at Maks. I started in administration and then soon took on Maks Digital ad interim. After all, a colleague had dropped out and no immediate replacement was found. I myself then applied to take up the coordination of Maks Digital. Together, we evolved towards Maks Adults. A targeted operation that we are now launching. I think I have seen every file or project pass by for a while. I think I mostly succeeded in supporting the work of colleagues. At the end of the day, it’s good. I hope to have made a positive contribution to that.

You will take over some of my duties. Where do you see the biggest challenges and how do you see yourself developing?

Cyriel: One challenge that became very concrete during the corona pandemic was the consultants’ online appointments with job seekers. I think another challenge will be the realisation of the merger of Maks Digital Adults and Maks Work. I do look forward to working with colleagues to create some synergy.

How do you see yourself as the coordinator of, after all, Maks’ biggest department?

Cyriel: I think it will mainly be ensuring that the colleagues at Maks Adults can continue to do their work well and with pleasure, in other words, facilitating the operation of Maks Adults.

Looking back over that whole period, do you have certain examples of situations, moments that you kept in mind that make you think: I really learnt something hugely important there?

Koen: I am very grateful for the many opportunities and responsibilities I have been given here at Maks. When I was just starting out, for example, I was allowed to coordinate the HURISTO project. A first for Maks as coordinator for a European project. Personally, I am very happy with the result. What I especially take away from Maks is the easy way to work together. That may sound a bit strange, but I always felt that within Maks you could think ahead with everyone and that we were moving forward, no matter how different we are from each other. I also learnt French at Maks, not just through coaching but mainly by having the chance to practise with colleagues day in and day out.

How do you see the future for yourself and your team?

Cyriel: The future of the team looks pretty big for me personally. Job counselling is not the only one that will be further developed in Molenbeek. Maks Digital Adults classes will also be organised there. I haven’t even seen all the locations where Maks Adults will be active. The Rom operation is also going to expand. And I am already hearing ideas from several colleagues for the future.

In which way will you leave Maks?

Koen: I hope with a beer and the colleagues corona-proof on the course. But we’ll see. As a person, I leave Maks mostly feeling very good, very grateful and with a bit of regret. I really like being here. Maks very quickly became something for me that carried a piece of my personality. A piece of my identity. I know that’s a risk for yourself at some point. Getting too involved, but that’s the way I like it, you know. If you work somewhere you are proud of then it becomes a piece of yourself and you carry that out. I really like that and for me personally, that does matter. And secretly, I am not leaving Maks completely. I remain a volunteer member on the board.

Where will you start working soon?

Koen: I am going to work in Ghent at vzw Jong. Vzw Jong is a youth welfare organisation.

What will you do there?

Koen: I myself will take up the business coordination there.

Do you like it?

Koen: Yes.

More importantly : do you like it? (Laughs.)

Cyriel: It will be a challenge, but I see it.

Is there any particular message you want to convey to staff, partners, readers, members of Maks?

Koen: I think Maks exists because of colleagues and partners. Above all, I would say keep up the good work, the importance of the actions you are taking together with Maks is underestimated and perhaps not always visible. But the impact you organise with Maks goes much deeper than a few individual stories, to me it really is a barricade where people can seek protection, collectively as well as individually. Keep up the good work and Be proud.

The impact of Maks goes deeper than a few individual stories, it is a barricade where people can seek protection


Former operations director and person in charge

Maks Adults

Maks tries to impart knowledge to people so that they themselves can influence their own lives



Maks Adults