First published 21 November on the Brussels Express.
It’s the end of November and we’re quickly entering a period where we celebrate the end of the year and the holiday festivities that come with it: Christmas markets, gathering with our loved ones, and giving back to the community. As an MA student, I’ll be writing my end-of-term essays and, like many others, won’t be able to go back home for the holidays, so I am definitely taking advantage of the winter-wonderland events Brussels has to offer.
The holidays are also a time to give back. Organisations around the world rely on the generosity during the holiday season to help support the work they do. At SB OverSeas, we’ve started our “Brighten Their Future” fundraiser to support our programmes and projects in Brussels and Lebanon. We’re offering symbols of our four different programmes & projects in exchange for a donation that supports that program. Not only do the dolls, paperweights, cards and bags make an great gift for your loved ones, they’re also supporting education, empowerment and inclusion programmes that work towards creating a brighter future.
But as temperatures plummet in the next coming weeks and the sunshine that we were spoiled with in the summer and fall becomes a rare occasion, I can’t help but notice one thing about this city that becomes increasingly apparent—the plight of those who are without a home and resort to sleeping on the streets.
This yearly phenomenon is apparent in Brussels in places like Gare du Nord and Park Maximilian, where many of those people are refugees who have just arrived in Belgium. Across the world, refugees become increasingly more vulnerable during wintertime. Refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon as well as refugee communities in the United Kingdom have this year already experience the problems posed by this season of cold weather. Refuge communities in the winter require more blankets, coats, warm durable shoes and other weather-related resources needed to live a life in safety and dignity.
Here are some projects in Brussels where community groups and organisations have stepped in to provide shelter, food and collecting donations of warm clothes:
- Donation collection by SB Overseas to send to camps in Lebanon. Drop off donations at our office at Rue de Progrès 231 in Schaerbeek.
- La Porte d’Ulysse- Centre Hébergement Plateforme Citoyenne run by the volunteers at Plateforme Citoyenne and welcomes 300 refugees every day and gives a warm place to sleep during the cold months and need volunteers to help with clean up and welcoming guests.
- La Cuisine De Hanane provides breakfast and dinner every day, and need volunteers to help clean up the kitchen and serve meals.
- Donation collection and awareness-raising at several locations in d’Evere, Molière and in Flagey on Saturdays, contact Plateforme Citoyenne for details.
- Breakast4Refugees, run by ServeTheCity serves breakfast to refugees outside of the World Trade Centre (WTC) every Monday and Tuesday morning
As well as my weekly participation in the SB Espoir activities with the youth at the Red Cross and FEDASIL accommodation centres, I plan to participate in the food distribution and other initiatives that will definitely be in need of volunteers, as many of their regular group goes home to their families for the holidays. And while it’s always important to help these populations in need, in the wintertime it’s especially significant, both for the physical well-being of those literally left out in the cold, but also during a time that focuses so much on spending time with family and community.