Growing up I was always taught the importance of giving back to the community. The women, in particular, in my family are very generous with their time and have served as great role models for how to give a helping hand. My grandmother for example volunteered at her local hospital for over 50 years – an incredible deed and one to which to aspire. Over the years, I’ve tried to find ways to help in my community, but this can be challenging when living abroad, especially if you don’t know where to look.
There are a number of ways to get involved in Brussels to help those in need both in Belgium and abroad. Here are two of the best.
Serve the City, launched by American Carlton Deal in 2005, organizes events where volunteers can help people in need in practical ways through their interests and abilities. The charity aims to connect expats living in Brussels with existing Belgian organizations already engaged in the community. Projects focus on serving the homeless, asylum seekers, disabled, elderly, children and victims of abuse. Serve the City has now grown into a global movement, with activities in 70 cities across The Netherlands, Spain, France, Brazil, US, South Africa and many more countries.
Volunteers can participate as individuals or as a group, on a one-time basis or as a regular commitment. You can even encourage your employer or company to support this organization. To find out how you can get involved, check out their Weekly Give a Hand update.
Their next big event will be on 18 February, when they’ll have their Homeless Focus Day. But you can also help today already – Serve the City will be serving food and handing out supplies to the homeless and refugees this evening in Gare du Nord starting at 6:30pm. You can either help on site or donate items like sleeping bags, blankets, shoes and warm clothes.
Another great way to give back is through the Expats for UNICEF group in Brussels. Founded in 2004, this is a volunteer committee of UNICEF Belgium that aims to raise awareness about UNICEF and support UNICEF Belgium’s campaigns among the expat community.
This group organizes all sorts of activities, including a monthly pub quiz, concerts, wine tastings and art exhibitions. You can check out upcoming events on their Facebook page. The next pub quiz is on 6 February and they’re hosting a party on 18 February at Rits Cafe with Lewis Cat performing live (only €5 entrance) – see details here.
Want to help out immediately? A really simple thing you can do is sign the UNICEF online petition to support the Emergency Schools project, which helps provide children affected by conflict or natural disaster with security, psychological support and an education.
The Tebiki blog has some other good ideas for how to get involved. Have you found other ways to give back in Brussels?
Images via Serve the City and UNICEF.