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In a buzzing metropolis like Brussels, one of the best ways to connect is to spend some of your free hours helping others. From being a guardian to a pet shelter pooch to volunteering at a used clothing shop that uses its revenue to help Brussels’ homeless population, here are five ways to contribute in the heart of Europe.
It’s no secret that Brussels has a large group of homeless and other people that are just barely keeping their head above water financially. Spullenhulp or Les Petit Riens (‘The Little Things’) has been on the frontline of the capital’s war against poverty for over three-quarters of a century. By collecting secondhand clothes and furniture and selling these items in almost 20 shops throughout the metropolis, Spullenhulp is able to help the down-on-their-luck with housing, social and legal support, and hot meals where needed. Joining the organization in a role that suits you (as an ambassador for schools, an office worker, a store member, or other function) means entering a team of over 150 volunteers that are deeply committed to fighting the good fight.
USE-IT Brussels is always looking for people with an intimate knowledge of the capital and a passion for the off-the-beaten-track tourist experience. Sitting in their info office, it’s your job to pop open the free and original maps the organization has made and tell travelers about hidden green gems or the best pubs serving beer for just a euro the way only a true local can. You might even get the chance to organize a completely subjective tour of your own favorite neighborhood. In exchange for sharing your love for Brussels with young, broke travelers, you get to meet people from all over the world in your very own city.
Social butterflies can provide a ton of solace just by being themselves. In an effort to lift people with psychological limitations out of isolation, the Buddynamic project goes in search of social dynamos to couple up with others who have a hard time communicating in our fast-paced society. All you have to do is clear out a couple of hours every week or two, and you might find yourself forming one-half of an unlikely new friendship. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Lots of urban dog lovers don’t get the opportunity to hold a pet in their Brussels apartment or simply don’t want to confine their furry friend to such a small space. An ideal solution to spending some time with man’s best friend is volunteering to walk shelter dogs or take up other tasks at organizations like Help Animals. One of the capital’s premier champions of the pet kingdom, this special shelter allows you to become a dog or cat’s guardian until they’ve found a more permanent home.
Most refugees who come to Belgium wind up in Brussels. They make up one of the most fragile groups in the capital, and organizations such as Convivial and BXLRefugees work tirelessly to provide them with psychological counseling, legal advice, assistance in filling out forms, finding a place to stay, applying for jobs, and so forth. The integration challenge is a big one, and volunteers are welcome to help out whichever way they can, which can range from helping to organize debates and cooking workshops to loaning out a van and taking in a refugee pending their asylum request. The BXLRefugees Facebook group regularly posts calls for all kinds of volunteers, and Convivial is often in need of translators.