The Food Bridge’s “The Helping Hand Project” supports African students during the COVID-19 pandemic
Owing to the major role played by African diaspora organisations and individuals in the African continent’s development, ADEPT, the Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform, is keen to highlight initiatives of the African diaspora based in the EU but also in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Norway. ADEPT works towards achieving a main goal: improving and strengthening the capacity and impact of African diaspora organizations involved in Africa’s development activities.
As COVID-19 also constituted a food security challenge, The Food Bridge vzw launched “The Helping Hand Project” to help African students who are without families in Belgium and unable to afford food due to the pandemic.
The Food Bridge vzw is a non-profit organization created in 2014 in Brussels, Belgium. Their main purpose is to promote food cultures not just as a mean of sharing communal experience but also as an applicable development tool. Besides, they are engaged in actions that highlight the challenges of food security and hunger.
“The Helping Hand Project” started in 2016. In close collaboration with the Food Bridge vzw’s partners, they have been cooking, packaging and distributing food to homeless and needy persons in the Brussels area. Actually, they work mostly with African volunteers and most of the foodstuff that they use are donated by Africans in Belgium. In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, they realized that this crisis was a food security challenge, since the kitchen they use at Community centre de Platoo was closed. As a result, they started granting food items to persons in need in their community. But they quickly realized that a lot of African students studying in Belgium were encountering the same problem. Therefore, they made the decision to focus more on supporting African students without families in Belgium.
At first, the Food Bridge vzw created an online campaign for food donations intended for the students. Subsequently, a great public interacted, in particular the African Diaspora community in Belgium. In addition, they received support from the King Baudouin Foundation’s COVID-19 grant.
With the COVID-19 crisis, African students could no longer work to meet their needs. As a result, they found themselves with no income, facing financial challenges. So, the Food Bridge vzw implemented this project as it was difficult for African students to stay in lockdown with no money, no job to satisfy their needs and buy food.
Regina Mukondola, “The Helping Hand Project” coordinator for Brussels was informed by the President of the International Students of Université Libre Bruxelles that some African students had not even eaten for 2 days. So, she created a WhatsApp group intended for students in need. They gathered up to 30 students at first. But, over time, they were supplying up to 60 students. Ultimately, they provided up to 100 students with food in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. As reported by an African student studying in Belgium and affected by COVID-19 crises, “The Helping Hand project” saved his life as he ran out of food.
This project was run in Belgium from March 20th, 2020 until July 11th, 2020 and assisted approximately 250 beneficiaries approximately. This project reached its goals with the help of their partners including especially those active in areas with strong African students presence such as Kwabre Ne Sekyere Belgium, Mfantesman vzw, Kente FM, Sankaa vzw, United Zambians in Belgium (UZB), Vocals for Christ vzw, Chakula asbl and Igbo women organization vzw.
Contact person: Maureen Duru