Volunteers at the Samusocial Jourdan Centre for asylum seekers help children with both language learning (French and Dutch) and with homework. Children participate in the activities every Wednesday evening, but its much deeper than pen and paper instruction…
Tim started volunteering in 2020 amid the COVID-19 lockdowns. Ever since social interactions had slowed as a result of pandemic regulations, volunteering seemed like a good way to make new friends while doing something good for the community.
In October 2020, a new centre for asylum seekers opened its doors by Place Jourdan. The Mobile Library, one of the many Serve the City projects that Tim took part in, helped the new centre by setting up a library in their common room so that asylum seekers and their families could better access books and various learning materials. Throughout this project, Tim got to know the staff and the residents of the centre and wanted to help them in more ways. “It quickly became clear that the children who were living in the centre needed educational support,” Tim recalls. “And so, the Jourdan Homework Club was born.”
Tim and a team of dedicated volunteers started going to the centre twice a week to provide homework and educational support to the children. The sessions included maths and grammar tutoring, but also a variety of social events. Alongside the regular homework sessions, Serve the City also organised activities with the residents such as Easter Egg Hunts and a visit from St Nicolas.
During one of the homework sessions, it became clear what the next activity had to be. One of the children was naming the animals that were painted on the walls in the activity room. “He was sure that the animals on the wall, a giraffe and an elephant, were magical creatures, like a unicorn, that only exist in stories,” Tim explains. “After lots of convincing that animals like giraffes and elephants are in fact real, he was so excited and was watching videos of giraffes for an hour on my phone. I then discovered that many of the other children also thought these animals were made up, which made me realise that our next activity had to be a trip to the zoo.”
After months of fundraising and organising, Serve the City managed to take over 120 people to Planckendael Zoo. This mainly consisted of families from the Jourdan centre, but also included a team of 25 volunteers. International German School of Brussels’ parents very generously provided the lunch for all those attending. Most of the people from the centre had never had the opportunity to visit a zoo, making the project especially meaningful for everyone involved. “I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life. Seeing the children discover these new things was very special.”