“Refugees and asylum seekers are here now with talents, skills and with open minds. They stand ready to make friends, learn languages and introduce the best of their culture to us” underlined Barbara Winn-Hagelstam, Founder and CEO at Our House Project, last Thursday, at the Press Club Brussels Europe.
Created in January this year, Our House Project is a non-profit organisation enabling effective refugee integration, including respectful exchange of cultural awareness between both the arriving and receiving cultures. For this House, integration is achieved through four critical areas: language, employment, accommodation and community network.
“We offer support services to refugees by assisting them to find long term rental accommodation or short term community hosting where needed. We organise language exchange programs involving arabic cooking classes given by refugees in French. We also provide legal support with collaborating law firms.” explained Barbara.
Food brings together
Preparing and sharing food together can be a warm and intimate exchange. Our House has many ways to make this possible with their refugees. From cooking worshops to professional catering. The menus are developed by the new Our House chefs: for instance the “meze buffet” was development by Mohammad and his wife, who are from Syria.
Catering for a wedding anniversary
How about hosting a refugee dinner party in your home? That’s another creative idea. You can invite your friends and neighbours to experience a cultural exchange with refugees. They will come to your home to cook and get to know you.
Another friendly initiative is the Syrian Pop Up Brunch, a cooperation between GC Kontakt and Our House Project. Keep tuned for the next one.
Next steps, next projects
“Our house is orchestrating a cooking/language exchange program where refugees and asylum seekers are taught and supported to demonstrate cooking classes in French and Dutch. After the introductory lessons, held in a closed group with the new arrivals, the courses will then be opened up to European participants wishing also to improve their language skills, as well as to learn the art of delicious middle eastern cooking. Interested?” concluded Barbara.
Would you like to help Our House?
Finding temporary and long term housing solutions for vulnerable refugees in need is often a difficult task. The reasons for this need can vary from overnight stays for visits to lawyers and medical facilities which are far from the asylum seeker’s center, to having received refugee status but being unable to find rental accommodation before having to vacate a center, to second applications submitted with new evidence after denial of the first.
A second asylum application comes with no shelter or social support from the government, which means that those who legitimately cannot return home can end up on the street. Our House currently has only a few short term solutions with citizens willing to host refugees in their homes from a weekend up to a few weeks. The more hosting households they can call on in times of crisis, the more refugees they can help and keep the load lighter for the individual hosting households. Our House is currently putting together a database of willing hosts in and around Brussels for refugees facing great difficulty. If you are unable to be a host, perhaps you can be a sponsor.
A sponsor helps covering some of the financial costs incurred by the hosting family. No fixed amount is expected. It’s up to sponsor to decide how much. The money will be spent on covering items such as extra food purchased during the course of a refugee’s stay with a hosting household.
Good to know