Volunteers Veerle, Dirk and Alican on the mic11 September 2023 19:06
Looking at the Refugee Walk from a different angle? Volunteers Veerle, Dirk and Alican know all about it! But who are they? First, we have Veerle, who has been committed to this important initiative for two years in a row; despite her retired status, she remains active in the community. Next, we speak to Dirk, a social worker at the Migration Advisory Centre, who shares his motivation for volunteering. And finally, we meet Alican, an engineer from Turkey who has lived in Belgium for a year and a half, who talks about his experiences at the Refugee Walk and why he finds it so important to participate in this event. These three volunteers share their personal motivations and experiences, which offer an inspiring perspective on commitment to the rights of people fleeing their country.
VEERLE ON THE MIC
Veerle is volunteering at the Refugee Walk for the second year in a row. She has since retired, but is certainly not sitting still: "Today, I am active as a farewell speaker at funerals, telling the life stories of deceased people. I also keep myself busy reading, cycling, travelling and enjoying my grandchildren."
"Worldly interest runs in our family. When we travel, I love experiencing different cultures up close. Cooking together with locals has been the highlight of a trip for me several times."
"You don't know each other, but you are all committed to the same cause and that still creates a very unique atmosphere."
On the Refugee Walk, of course, you don't always have immediate contact with people who come from other cultures, but you can see what's going on around people with refugee stories. The positive vibes there are very palpable in the air and I find that really super to experience.
"It is often said about this volunteer work that it is a drop in a hot plate, but with all the drops together, that plate cools down very much."
The dynamics between the different volunteers at the previous edition especially stuck with me: you don't know each other, but you are all committed to the same cause and that still creates a very unique atmosphere. It is often said about this voluntary work that it is a drop in the ocean, but with all the drops together, the ocean cools down very much. All these small efforts, help people who work day by day for people fleeing their country move forward.
"Through volunteering, I want to applaud and support all those who advocate for the rights of refugees."
I can well imagine how frustrating it is to see how the rights of people fleeing their country are systematically violated. Through volunteering, I want to applaud and support all people who advocate for the rights of refugees.
DIRK ON THE MIC
Dirk is an aid worker at the Migration Advisory Centre. "Specifically, that means I provide socio-legal support to newcomers," Dirk explains.
"As a grassroots organisation, we don't have the resources to stand up for the rights of people fleeing their country at policy level."
"My choice to get involved as a volunteer on the Refugee Walk is simple: I have enormous sympathy for the work of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen. Refugee Work supports the same target group as the Advisory Centre for Migration, but does so at a very different level. As a grassroots organisation, we don't have the resources ourselves to stand up for the rights of people on e flight at the policy level.
"What struck me most about the Refugee Walk? A sense of connection."
"What struck me most about the Refugee Walk? That is definitely a sense of connection. It is wonderful to witness the interaction between participants and volunteers. As a volunteer, I then regularly met acquaintances and friends who were walking along. That is then really heartwarming to see that your own network, but also endless people outside, are committed to such an important cause."
ALICAN ON THE MIC
Alican is an engineer and comes from Turkey. He has been living in Belgium for a year and a half. Alican is also a busy bee: in addition to his job as an engineer, he spends time volunteering at Serve The City.
"I am always interested if I can help somewhere. When we learnt about the Refugee Walk, my wife Kubra and I immediately signed up as volunteers. Our job was to welcome the walkers at one of the last pit stops. We showed the walkers the way and gave them information on where to find the first aid stand, for example."
"For me, the Refugee Walk feels like a safe space, where everyone can be themselves," he says.
"Everyone at the Refugee Walk is super helpful, talkative and welcoming. When you attend, a sense of safety and security immediately falls over you. I would therefore describe the whole event as a kind of safe space, where everyone can be themselves."
"I think it is important to participate in the Refugee Walk because it is a place where you get to know people fleeing their country and their stories in a very direct way."
"I think it is important to take part in the Refugee Walk because it is a place where you get to know people fleeing their country and their stories in a very direct way. I had in-depth conversations there with a refugee and someone studying political science. One gave me insights about the personal feelings and experiences such a flight brings, while the other was able to teach me things about how the bigger picture works. I found that incredibly fascinating. The Refugee Walk is a good portal to hear refugee stories and spread them further."