Almost 15 years ago, in July 2005, Serve the City Brussels had its first Big Volunteer Week. There were many projects, but the most important one, the one that started the movement, was a basketball camp in the Remparts des Moines neighbourhood in Ste Catherine. 15 years ago… It sounds great, but you can’t just keep saying that over and over again or it loses meaning. Great that we started something…but then what happened?
What happened is 15 years of volunteering in Brussels – thousands and thousands of people. We already celebrated our 100th Big Volunteer Day more than a year ago. With more or less 100 people per BVD, that’s 10,000 volunteers. Plus 15 annual Big Volunteer Weeks, plus weekly volunteering projects these last 5 years, plus 25+ CSR team building events each year. But it’s not about numbers, it’s about people. Have we cared for vulnerable people in our city? Have we met needs? Have we supported the work of local non-profit associations? Absolutely. Time and time again, volunteers have spent quality time with people in need in our city, showing kindness in personal ways. When we started, we only knew ‘their’ needs. But now, one by one, we know their names.
What happened is Serve the City spread from Brussels to Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Dublin, and Lisbon. Then Berlin, Geneva, Luxembourg, Baltimore, and Port au Prince. And so on. In total there are active STC teams in 40 cities around the world, and leaders or teams in another 50 cities that are getting started. In fact, I’m writing this in the Istanbul airport, on my way to Pristina, where a team is coming together to lead a national volunteering movement in Kosovo. I just came from Athens, where another team is interested. My STC Int’l colleague Jerry will be in Indonesia next week meeting with a team that wants to start, and I will be in Rwanda the week after.
What happened is STC Brussels hosted the 2019 Serve the City International Forum 24-27 October at MAD in St Catherine – back in the same neighbourhood where Serve the City started. We welcomed 100 guests from 20 countries, representing 35 cities. Leaders from another 10 cities – including Accra, Adelaide, and Dubai – send heartwarming ‘we wish we could be there’ videos. We challenged all Serve the City leaders to ’Serve with Why,’ remembering that the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of volunteering only matter if our hearts are deeply touched by the ‘why.’ We launched the new STC podcast called ’Serving Stories,’ now available on www.servethecity.net. We showed our international guests what ‘Cross the Line’ means to us in Brussels, visiting many of our projects on a scavenger hunt led by our project leaders.
And now, I am happy to say that we have a new leader for Serve the City Brussels! Nathan Torrini, our former Office Manager, is now the STC Brussels Executive Director. Nathan is perfect for the job, and I have complete confidence in him. We have a great team working with him, and I am certain he will receive great support from our volunteering community. I will take the role of Board Chair for STC Brussels, and am glad to have more time to devote to my role in Serve the City International.
What happened is many people did small things together – and have made a big difference!
Joy and peace
Serve the City International