Picture credit @Regina Mukondola
In April 2020 we launched an online appeal for food donations to help us support the African students affected by the Covid -19 lockdown. People especially those from the African diaspora community responded to this appeal by donating not just food but also money to pay for food items. The project achieved its goals with the support of our partners including especially those active in the regions with African students 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.
For the first phase of this intervention, we received a total of 970 euros in donations from 24 individuals resident in Belgium. Food donations were also received from individuals and organizations. However, the support that made a huge difference to this campaign was the subsidy of 10,000 euros received from the Roi Boudwijn Foundation Belgium. All these enabled us to expand the reach of this covid-19 intervention.
To insure an effective process, we had volunteer coordinators overseeing the distribution of the food donations in different cities. This initiative was a success because of the dedication of these local coordinators too. The following volunteered as coordinators for the project -
Brussel: Regina Mukondola, Theo Opoku and Erasmus Dazie (student)
Leuven: Dennis MensahHasselt : Amanda Lazmon and Henry Ojo-Kolawole (student)
Leuven La Neuve, Mons, Namur and Charleroi : Aluba Kalu and Juliette Nijimbre
Gent: Fynn Dodo, Diana D Anthony and Blaise Beme (Student)
Antwerp : Elisabeth Severino Fernandes
Once we had the funds, we began informing people about this covid-19 intervention. We sent messages to different university student associations in Belgium and also used social media to insure the message got to the target audience. Soon we were getting more requests from students, organizations working with students and other local associations . Each request was referred to the local coordinator, who in turn included them in the list of recipients for that particular city or university. This was necessary to enable us know the quantity of food that needed to be delivered for each city and when it should be sent. Students could only be on a list to collect food from one city of their choice, preferably where they study.
While the lockdown was still in place, the project had to rely on Chakula asbl to insure food ordered for the students, were sent to the different cities. Moreover, it was important also to include some African food in the list of food items; such as plantain, pepper, beans, vegetables etc, these were supplemented by food bought from either Colruyt, Aldi or Lidl.
One of our long standing partners, the Flemish federation- Sankaa vzw, also donated 150 masks, bottles of gel and cartons of sanitary towels for female students. These were distributed to the students through the local coordinators.
By the end of the first phase of this project, food was supplied weekly from April to July 2020 to over 200 students in universities in Antwerp, Brussels, Gent, Leuven, Hasselt, Louvain la neuve, Namur, Mons and Charleroi. The students were appreciative of the support they received as shown by the messages and videos we received.
The Helping Hand Project also continued supporting other needy individuals and families in vulnerable condition. In total we supported 15 families made up of 50 people including children. We hope to continue with food donations to those that need help, if there is enough resources to do this and still continue the street feeding, which will start again in September 2020.
The Helping Hand Project