Brussels’ Dutch speaking network counts many associations and organisations that bring Brusselers together and in this way help them connect with each other and strengthen social networks. VGC college members Pascal Smet and Elke Van den Brandt join forces and make 200,000 euros available for a two-year period for four innovative projects that tackle loneliness and social isolation: Ode aan de eenzaamheid (vzw Avansa Citizenne), Art for you(th) (vzw Globe Aroma), Vier het leven Brussel (vzw Cultuurkuur) en Circus Moves (vzw Zonder Handen). In this way, the VGC wants to break the taboo of loneliness and bring Brusselers together in connecting projects.
“Too many people - young, old and of all cultural backgrounds - live in loneliness. More and more people are aware of this, but the problem still too often remains behind closed doors. With these projects, we want to remove the taboos associated with loneliness. Making it possible to talk about it is often the first step in preventing and overcoming it. We have opted for projects that connect and engage socially isolated Brusselers,” said VGC college member for Living Together & Diversity Pascal Smet.
“Ode aan de eenzaamheid” (Ode to loneliness) of vzw Avansa Citizenne consists of a series of socio-cultural activities for Brusselers. Avansa Citizenne proceeds from the power of loneliness, without trying to solve it. The project questions everyday ideas about loneliness and provides tools to do so.
“Art for you(th)” of vzw Globe Aroma focuses on the reception of unaccompanied minor refugees arriving in Brussels. A reception that is often limited to bed, bath and bread. Several shelters asked Globe Aroma to work together to provide a range of activities and meetings for these young people. With this project, Globe Aroma therefore wants to extend its expertise on working with newcomers to support unaccompanied minor newcomers aged 14 to 18. They will meet each other and other young people and map out Brussels in relation to cultural organisations. This will develop a social and cultural network across sectoral boundaries.
Vzw Cultuurkuur is a volunteer organisation that organises theatre, concert, film and museum visits for elderly people who no longer can, want to or dare to go on their own. “Vier het Leven” (Celebrate Life) has existed since 2019, is currently already ongoing in several Flemish cities and is now also being launched in Brussels, taking into account the local context of the capital. The target group consists of Brussels elderly people who connect with the Dutch-speaking socio-cultural offer in Brussels, with a specific focus on those who experience feelings of loneliness or social isolation.
“Circus Moves” of vzw Zonder Handen focuses on leisure activities for families (including singles) with a migration background and a family member with a disability. Feeling ashamed because of a disability, not knowing that participating is an option, the search for care, help and other support consume all their energy. “Circus Moves” aims to work on normalising disability, to help break prejudices, to make it possible to talk about it and to lower the threshold to leisure and help.
"Loneliness is an often underestimated problem in major cities. In Brussels, several leisure organisations and welfare partners are joining forces. We make loneliness visible and make it possible to talk about it. We also bring together Brusselers with a small social network through four valuable connecting projects. In this way, we offer vulnerable Brusselers, young newcomers, single elderly people or children with a disability better ways to find their place in our city," said college president Elke Van den Brandt.