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Symposium: Housework and well-being

Former head of PR for the Vatican under Pope John Paul II, Dr. Joaquin Navarro Valls, and Italian politician Dr. Paola Binetti addressed a group of international guests at Home Renaissance Foundation's Annual Symposium. With over thirty participants representing universities and educational institutions from around the world, the great accomplishment of the 2011 symposium has been to gather great minds and enthusiasts in an event geared to propel the Foundation forward for the next few years.

Following the success of the Sustainable Living: Professional Approaches to Housework international conference in March, Home Renaissance Foundation is working towards pushing its mission forward. Every year the Foundation hosts a symposium to explore potential areas of future work and bring people together to think about ways in which we can promote a greater recognition of the work of the home. This year guests were invited to consider engagement with the media and the relationship between wellbeing and housework.

Having spent many years working closely with one of the men who have attracted most media attention in recent times, Dr. Navarro Valls presented Pope John Paul II's success with the media as a model institutions can follow. Although few would deny that the late pope was a man of incredible charisma, Navarro Valls attributed his success with the media to his naturalness and his conviction in the message he presented. 'When I asked people why they came to see him, their answers always fell into one of three statements: I have never heard anybody say what he is saying; I do not know if I will ever be able to live up to his message, but I would like to; I think he is right. John Paul II was entirely convinced of his message and that conviction was contagious.'

After four years in existence and with three international conferences to date, Home Renaissance Foundation has a bold message it aims to spread: the value of the work of the home and its impact on the life of the individual, the family and society.

Dr. Paola Binetti spoke in her capacity as a psychiatrist - examining the deep relationship between both physical and mental wellbeing (be it real or perceived) and the environment we inhabit, namely the home. She likened the home to different medical treatments and claimed that it can be preventative, predictive, healing and rehabilitating.

However, in order to be a space of reciprocal care and healing, the person looking after the home needs to be able to de-code the language of personal needs and human emotions. Whereas technical skills are crucial to be able to cater to the universal needs of man, it is only through the skill of reading each person's needs that individuals can find a space of fraternity within the home. In this sense, the people who devote themselves to this form of work are the guardians of human wellbeing.

From a professional perspective, the challenged posed by this work lies in its very nature. As Dr. Binetti pointed out, the current trend in professional formation is specialist training based on the functions and tasks each person will be carrying out in their job. The problem with this model is that when a systemic approach to a profession is lost, there are certain functions and tasks that get omitted as they do not fit any specialty. Who carries out these tasks if they are not a clearly defined part of anybody's job profile? This is one of the major difficulties faced by the work of the home, which requires proficiency in a myriad of different tasks.

And yet this work has a fundamental effect on society. It is of the utmost importance for the home to be a haven where people can 'recharge' as it were and commune with one another before going back out into the world to perform, excel and succeed. It is precisely for this reason that society cannot afford to let the home become a space of indifference.

The psychological need for the work of the home as the basis for interdependence and the springboard for interpersonal relationships makes a compelling topic for further work (and an argument for the value of this work). Moreover, it is through research that addresses the integrity of the human person in the context of the home that Home Renaissance Foundation will be able to present a message to the media that it cannot ignore.


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