Photo of the week: Lifting her voice


UN Goodwill ambassador and former opera singer Barbara Hendricks visited VUB to hear from the students enrolled in its refugee programme

‘A citizen of the world’

Celebrated soprano Barbara Hendricks was in Brussels yesterday at the invitation of VUB to discuss the Flemish university’s refugee programme. The former opera singer has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador for more than 30 years.

Hendricks was born in the United States but has lived in Europe since the 1970s. A citizen of Sweden, she lives in Basel in Switzerland. Her UN work is focused on the plight of refugees around the world.

VUB was the first university in Belgium to develop a programme for refugees. Along with an introductory course to help with academic and language skills, its Refugee Student Programme provides tailor-made guidance and psychological support in the beginning and throughout their studies at the university.

Hendricks, 70, met three of the students enrolled in the programme, who described their journeys from their home countries to Belgium and to VUB. “I smile listening to these young refugee students and the change in their lives thanks to the opportunities they’ve been given,” she said. “We know that there will be three more vital and productive citizens wherever they end up, because of the experience they received here.”

The Goodwill Ambassador also accompanied a group of UN workers from Brussels to Maximiliaan Park in Brussels, where many migrants are sleeping. “I am as old as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she said, “and I feel strongly connected to its values. It means I can be a citizen of the world, and everyone is a member of my family. When I started doing this work for the UN, I became very inspired – by my colleagues on the ground who give so much, but also by the refugees themselves, particularly the women. Their courage, their dignity makes it possible for me when I watch the news and feel despondent to say to myself, ‘no, I cannot give up, because they do not give up’. When I started doing this work the refugee cause attached itself to me, and it hasn’t left me. I will carry this until the end.”

Photo: Hatim Kaghat/BELGA

Free University of Brussels (VUB)

The VUB was established as a spin-off of the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles in the 1960s. It’s an internationally oriented and liberal institution, and the only Dutch-speaking university in the capital.
Work - The VUB is the largest Dutch-speaking employer of the Brussels-Capital Region.
St V - Every year, students honour university founder Pierre Theodore Verhaegen in a festive, booze-filled “St V” march through the city.
Campus - The VUB is the only Dutch-speaking university with a small, American-style green campus.

Master’s programmes offered


million euros in research budget in 2010

12 000

students in 2011-2012 academic year