jane Blog > Volunteers helping refugees in Brussels

Magali and Johanna, two JGI volunteers, have been helping the refugees in the Parc Maximilien in Brussels since the very beginning. Here is their story.


“Just a short time ago, the wars we hear about on the news seemed to be a long way off. Of course, I knew that a very large number of people had been forced to leave their country for their own safety and that many lives had been destroyed, but it wasn’t until the Parc Maximilien was turned into a “refugee camp” that I became aware that many of these people were now living with me, in my own city. The news was now very close to me and rapidly became my own reality. It was clear to me that I needed to answer the call for volunteers on the newly-created Facebook page, “Plateforme citoyenne de soutien aux refugiés Bruxelles” (Citizens’s platform to support refugees, Brussels). I wanted to help these people who had left everything behind to save their lives.

Very soon, lots of people were communicating on the Platform, although they didn’t know each other. Solidarity was organised. Hundreds of people lent a hand, and together made a difference. I met up with other volunteers in a warehouse where an impressive amount of donations was stored, food, clothes, tents, toiletries etc. We spent some hours forming a human chain to empty a lorry, filling it up with clothes to be transported to the park and then sorting and putting away all the donations so generously given by ordinary people. Meanwhile, in the park, a lot of people had already formed a team to sort clothes. I went and joined them. That day, we had arranged to meet up with Johanna, who also volunteers for Jane Goodall Institute. That was about ten days ago. Every day since then, she has gone to the park to help where she can, when she can. Sometimes, frequently, she stays there late into the evening. Another volunteer spends all her time there, day and night, since the very first day. Whenever I can, I join them at the reception for new arrivals. That is where the migrants go to ask for a tent when they arrive in the park. There is a team which manages the tents. Which tents have been freed up? Where can new tents be pitched. Which tents need to be replaced or cleaned? How many people will fit into a given tent? This is where people exhausted after a long journey can find rest and information about how the camp works. Where can they get clothes? Where can they eat? Where can they see a doctor?

This is also where many of them tell us their story. They come from Mosul, Baghdad or Tikrit in Iraq, from Damascus or Aleppo in Syria or from elsewhere. One day, one of them asked whether I worked as a volunteer. I laughed and replied, “You call this working? I’m not doing anything. We’re just having a chat!” And he replied, “You help us just by listening”. That’s the least we can do.”

Magali, JGI Belgium volunteer

To find out how you can be part of this movement of solidarity with the refugees and give real meaning to the Day of Peace, go to the Platform’s Facebook page or website. You too can make a difference!

Facebook : Plateforme citoyenne de soutien aux réfugiés Bruxelles
Web site : http://www.bxlrefugees.be/

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