Read the first part of this article here.
Early last Saturday morning, over thirty people from all over Belgium made their way to a small office close to Saint Denis square in Brussels. Why you may ask? Why are these people giving up one of the last sunny Saturdays in Brussels to come sit in an office all day? These people are the new SB Espoir volunteers. What is SB Espoir, you may ask? Well it is a weekend volunteering people that aims to bring together two groups of people living in Belgium: refugee youth living in asylum centres and those living and working in and around Brussels.
By 10.15am, the room was fill with people interested in getting involved with this weekend volunteering program. After a brief introduction on our projects in Lebanon and Belgium, we got to the main theme of the day of the day: SB Espoir. Our new coordinator, Marco described the program in detail outlining the aims for the future. Following this, we had a presentation from both Fedasil and the Belgium Red Cross, our partners, who explained the asylum process in great detail.
Voices of our Volunteers
During a delicious lunch, I had the opportunity to talk to a number of volunteers about their reasons for joining SB Espoir.
Cecilia, one of our longest volunteers, joined us when she moved to Brussels to do a traineeship with the European Commission. As many EU trainees (myself included), she ended up staying in Brussels. For her the reason she has remained with SB Espoir for so long, as with it ‘everyone wins’.
Hamim, who was featured in our #YourDayYourVoice article for World Refugee Day, wherein we asked refugees what the word ‘refugee’ meant to them, talked from the heart telling the volunteers that their ‘contribution was more valuable than you know’. His experience of having gone through the asylum procedure, meant he knew first-hand how important it was to have the break from the monotony of the centre, especially for the youth.
For Aizhan, known as the volunteer with a smile always on her face, made the simple point that ‘they are just kids’. Treat them as you would if they were your niece or nephew.
Plans for the next year with SB Espoir
‘Lots of sports, hiking and being outdoors, and some cultural events,’ according to Marco, our SB Espoir coordinator. In addition, offering more weekday volunteering in the centres and the possibility of starting our program in a new asylum centre.
For SB Espoir, one of our main aims is to provide the youth with a positive outlook on their future. In light of this, we are incorporating the concept of a ‘role model’ as part of our plans. This would provide the youth with an opportunity to meet people who have been through the asylum process and have become a part of Belgium community, such as Hamim. This will show the youth the possibilities that life in Belgium has to offer.
How you can help
There are a number of ways you can get involved with us. We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join us on the weekend (and now possibly the week). Secondly, are you or do you know someone who would be open to being a role model for these youth? Let us know! Last but not least, we are always planning exciting activities for the youth, so are you part of a sports team, run artistic workshops or do vocational training, let us know and we can see how we can collaborate.