Projects rewarded that help foreigners settle in Flanders


Flemish Refugee Action has recognised nine projects in the final edition of its Hospitable Community awards, from helping newcomers improve their Dutch to putting a roof over the heads of asylum-seekers

Helping hands

The non-profit organisation Flemish Refugee Action has awarded its Gastvrije Gemeente (Hospitable Community) awards for the fifth time. It is in fact the final edition of the five-year initiative that rewards local programmes that help refugees and other newcomers to settle in Flanders.

The organisation awards projects in eight categories. Each winner takes home a sculpture and a €1,000 prize.

In the category Municipalities, the award went to the project Elke dag Nederlands  organised by (W)integratie, a co-operation among coastal towns De Panne, Koksijde, Nieuwpoort and Veurne. The initiative brought together multiple partners to help newcomers learn the Dutch needed to take part in a volunteer project. This not only improved their language skills but also helped them meet locals.

Begoocheling (Illusion), a play by Compagnie Tartaren in Leuven won in the category Cultural and Artistic Initiatives. Foreigners were involved in creating the performance from the first step to the last.

Getting youth involved

For Schools, Antwerp University’s Taalmaat initiative was honoured for bringing Dutch-language learners together with Dutch-speaking university students. And for Youth Organisations, the Mechelen project Jeugdwerk voor Alleman (Youth Work for Everyone) won the award for its efforts to get kids with foreign roots more involved in activities.

In the Business category, the award went to Pro-Natura, which works with all kinds of vulnerable groups to teach them how to manage nature reserves and forests. The goal is to provide free training and work experience that could eventually lead to a job.

WCU-Dance won the award in the Organisations category for the See Festival in Wijnegem, which takes place this Sunday. It brings young asylum seekers together with locals in youth care housing and with physical limitations for a variety of activities. The ultimate goal is to create long-lasting friendships.

Cycling across Flanders

The Citizens award went to the Citizen’s Platform for Refugee Support, probably the best-known of all the initiatives for its efforts to match newly arrived asylum seekers with citizens who can take them into their homes. The organisation formed in 2014 during the refugees crisis, which found hundreds of people camping in Maximiliaan park in Brussels.

Finally, the award for Co-operation went to the international project In de Zorg – Uit de zorgen! (Getting into Care – Eliminating Cares!), which saw eight partners in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany that helps foreigners find training and  jobs in the care sector.

Gastvrije Gemeente also has a public prize, with votes taking place online. Some 10,000 people voted this year. The public prize also comes with a €1,000 reward. This year the public prize went to Circle of cycle & Eetfestijn, which sees local organisations and newcomers taking part in a three-day bike ride across the country next month. They will stop in at associations in various cities along the way, with the message that that association is always open to them.

Photo: Jeugdwerk voor Alleman found Mechelen youth groups reaching out to kids new to Flanders