To our Brussels-based European civil society friends, we recommend you take a look at the work of a local NGO called Tandem. It is an initiative set up to help and support refugees and asylum-seekers residing in Belgium. Their aim is to provide a possibility for them to contribute to the community, and support restoration of their dignity and autonomy through initially short-term placements in European-level NGOs. Tandem aims to bring the direct experience of individual refugees and asylum-seekers and the challenges facing them into EU level NGOs.
We had a positive experience, with Sam Aljazairi who helped us over 10 days in the run-up to the “Families on the Move” conference in May. We feel it was both enriching both for him and the Brussels secretariat staff. The basic placement is for a minimum of two weeks, and is an opportunity for individuals to get an insight into the work of European organisations, to get a foot into a sector of the Brussels labour market, network and create vocations (or not). From our COFACE perspective, it was an important reality-check and our modest contribution to welcoming refugees in Belgium.
We would encourage Brussels-based organisations to sign up to host short-term placements– Tandem cannot function without the support and involvement of good hosts.
There is quite some diversity of profiles of volunteers – from individuals that have no professional experience, to architects, engineers, former business owners. The average age is 28, and most are from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine. There is also quite some diversity in the host organisations: from COFACE, to ActionAid, the ICJ, CEPS, and Bruegel. Tandem can support organisations in deciding upon possible tasks for a placement, if they do not have experience of having volunteers in their teams. Getting involved is easy, and simply requires openness, flexibility and a willingness to learn and cooperate together.
Tandem turned 1-year old on World Refugee Day (20th June), so this an opportune moment for organisations to sign up. Think about it?
Visit Tandem’s website here: tandemvolunteering.org