A Heart for Refugees in Ghent

A Facebook initiative to help asylum seekers and refugees

5 minutes to read
Paper
berfin karakecili
16/09/2016

 

Een hart voor vluchtelingen Gent [A heart for refugees in Ghent]” was started in 2015 and spreaded around through Facebook. Today, it is a asuccessful initiative that provides customized aid to asylum seekers.

 

Resistance and aid

Following the “refugee crisis” in Europe, a majority of European citizens were divided with respect to attitudes towards asylum seekers and refugees. There were some who were passionately against their country’s acceptance of asylum seekers to an extent whereby violent protests took place. For instance, “14 pig heads [were left] at the entrance of a refugee centre in Eschmarkerveld, near the city of Enschede” in an attempt to unnerve Muslim asylum seekers (RT Network, 2015). Additionally, “Violent scuffles broke out across Europe” in February 2016 by “far right group PEGIDA [Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West]” (Charlton & Joseph, 2016; Gemeente Amsterdam, 2016). This were only two of the several most striking incidents that have happened to showcase citizens’ enragement regarding the new migrants in various cities.

Despite these incidents, the initiatives to aid asylum seekers have also emerged (Cox, n.d.; Goroya, Dhala & Hayes, 2015; Mensch Mensch Mensch e.V., n.d). They focus on the belief that all human beings are equal and deserve the right to feel safe (ibid). Evelyne Huughe, an enthusiast from Belgium, is one of them. She started an organization which aims to aid people in need, including asylum seekers and refugees.

 

A heart for refugees

This organization is titled “Een hart voor vluchtelingen Gent [A Heart for Refugees in Ghent]”  (Een Hart Voor Vluchtelingen). She explained that her motivation for this initiative stemmed from some photographs that she had seen from Brussels. In these pictures, she saw how people were living in tents under inhumane conditions. She said, “I wanted to do something for those people. We are all humans regardless of our skin colour and religion.” And with the question, “Can't we do something?” in her mind, she embarked upon this project.

“Nobody is illegal, we are all humans”

Initially, Evelyne’ s family members and friends had offered as much help as possible to the asylum seekers. However, she soon realized that this was not enough. In an attempt to garner more support and means, she set up a Facebook group entitled, “Een hart voor vluchtelingen Gent” in September 2015 (Een Hart Voor Vluchtelingen, n.d., Een hart voor vluchtelingen Gent, 2015). Within 4 days, the group had amassed 200 members and is still growing. She considered the raising of awareness to be a success. Albeit the initial negative reactions, which stem from the perspective that asylum seekers and refugees are “illegal” and undeserving of help, Evelyne and her team showed different ideology clearly through the following words: “Nobody is illegal, we are all humans”.

 

Between the community and the state -institutions

She then proceeded to organize meetings with others who, like her, are still working for the initiative. They established that the first thing this organization had to do was to find a common goal and, for them, itwas to meet the needs of people. At present, the organization consists of volunteers from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Evelyne had shared with us that she felt lucky as the wider community was willing to support her initiative by bringing things such as diapers and clothings for the asylum seekers. 

Evelyne is in charge of communicating with the refugee centers in order to find out what the needs of the asylum seekers are. She is informed about their needs through e-mail. Following that, she makes announcements on the Facebook page as well as organizes the drop-off locations for people to leave the donated items. This is a useful working approach as the organization is able to gather items that are actually needed by the asylum seekers themselves.

In order to eliminate the possibility of chaos with the amount of donated items, “Een hart voor vluchtelingen Gent” prepares the personal packages for the asylum seekers and refugees. This is of high importance in order to ensure that people would be able find the appropriate size of clothings that they need. Eveline achieved that by doing the aforementioned, and they feel that this very action in itself serves as a sign of respect to the asylum seekers and the refugees. It is as if the organization is saying: "Your thoughts and needs are important to us". As such, it is, in some sense, also means of psychological help for the asylum seekers and refugees.

Belief in equality within humanity

As previously mentioned, “Een hart voor vluchtelingen Gent” serves as a clear example of people who are willing to help, based on the belief in equality within humanity. It can be said that due to organizations such as “Een hart voor vluchtelingen Gent”, the wider Belgian community is more actively engaged in understanding the situation of asylum seekers and refugees. In addition, it is taking one step further in eradicating negative perspectives as well. Through this, we contend that it is indeed a successful attempt in providing personal aid to people in need. Much of this success can be attributed to the organization of Eveline and her team as well as the accessibility of their social media page. This initiative is a perfect example how online activism can create the actual influences on real life.

 

Notes

[1]  The organization is named “Een hart voor vluchtelingen Gent”, which translated to English means, “A heart of refugees in Ghent”. In this project, however, we feel that it is essential to draw distinctions between refugees and asylum seekers and not categorize them into the same grouping. As such, we will be referring to both terminologies, vluchtelingen [refugees] as well as asielzoeker [asylum seekers].

[2] In her own words

 

References

Charlton, C. &, Joseph, A. (2016). “A world divided: Violent clashes break out across the globe as thousands take to the streets in anti-Islam protests organised by far-right group PEGIDA”. Daily Mail Online.

Cox, C. (n.d.). “Calaid-ipedia”. Calaid-ipedia

Een Hart Voor Vluchtelingen. (n.d.). “Wie zijn we?”. Een Hart Voor Vluchtelingen

Een Hart Voor Vluchtelingen Gent. (2015). “Een Hart Voor Vluchtelingen Gent: Community”

Gemeente Amsterdam. (2016). “Demonstratie Pegida opnieuw voor het stadhuis”. Amsterdam, the NL.

Goroya, E., Dhala, K., &, Hayes, L. (2015). “Volunteers help refugees survive while Europe’s leaders still search for solutions”. Amnesty International

Mensch Mensch Mensch, e.V. (n.d.). “Refugees Welcome”. 

RT Network. (2015). “Dutch welcome: Pig heads left at migrants’ camp entrance in Netherlands (GRAPHIC)”. RT Question More: