As we drove home on Sunday night after cleaning all that up, eating spaghetti, drinking beer and telling stories I finally understood why they do it – the feeling of accomplishment and team work.
We did everything, from shoveling sand to tapping pintjes to collecting trash and hosing the place down and all I could think meanwhile was that they were out of their minds. Not to mention that that Friday was the hottest day of the year in Belgium.
I also love volunteering, helping out, doing what I can and sharing what I know.
Suddenly I realized what I’m doing: volunteering at both sides of Expat Life.
At the local youth house, I meet people and have fun. I met most of my Belgian friends (and boyfriend) there. Sometimes you’ll find me tapping beer (I finally sorted that out!), taking orders in Dutch, cleaning up, integrating and going local.
At Raiz Mirim, the Brazilian project, I keep in touch with my roots and pass it on to the children. You’ll find me teaching them Portuguese, playing games or doing arts and crafts.
There I meet the Brazilian community in Belgium and get to know a lot of interesting life stories. I make friends and share our struggles and dreams.
“Volunteering in the KLJ, a youth movement, was almost a normal step for me. I'd been a member of the KLJ since I was 7, so becoming one of the leaders I've always looked up to was great. I loved spending my Sunday afternoon with the children. Too bad I had too much work for school that I had to stop. My last campfire was so sad: all my members were crying and me too. It felt so nice to know how much they liked me as their leader. I almost felt bad for leaving them behind, but I knew that next year, they'll love their new leaders as much as they loved me.
Apart from the KLJ, I've been a volunteer in the youth house Qw1i in Lennik. Opening the bar, starting new activities, gathering with 'de kern' every month... It's all so worth it. The friendships we've created, the feeling of being an important part of a bigger group - you've got the feeling you've achieved something when the activities you organized went well. I love the organizing.
The volunteering in youth movements and youth houses is something typically Belgian. It's something I would miss living abroad. Something I really love about Belgium.” Liesa Harnie, 20, photography student. Vlezenbeek, Belgium.
“I have been volunteering in a project called Raiz Mirim for a year and a half. We offer weekly creative workshops and share Brazilian culture – festivities, folklore, important dates, relevant topics and language. My main motivation is that I wanted to work for a relevant social project. The children here need greater integration with other Portuguese speaking kids, because many are born in Belgium but are still Brazilians who live in a different culture. They haven’t lost their roots and need to know how to navigate between both. What motivated me besides that was meeting people, making friends, learn more about education and practice the knowledge I had.
What I like the most about this experience is the love I receive from the children and the nice people I meet – most of my Brazilian friends in Belgium I met through Raiz Mirim. Everyone should try volunteer work at least once in their lives, because it’s the most genuine work experience there is and in the end you see you’re doing it for love.” Flora Hager, 29, artist. Brussels, Belgium.
This is an official link for volunteering in Brussels.
List of Youth Houses in Belgium.
And if you're an Expat, you can check in with your country's Consulate or Embassy if there are any projects, associations or activities they support and that are in need of volunteers.
Do you or have you ever done volunteer work? Would you like to? Where? Tell us about it!