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Community Kitchen: Keen cooks help feed growing number of Ukrainian refugees in Brussels
Keen cooks and drivers have been helping with the growing number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to the Belgian capital.
Community Kitchen, which has its base at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Ixelles, is one of numerous charities in Brussels desperate to help feed and clothe not only the burgeoning number of Ukraine nationals seeking safety in the city, but refugees from other crisis-stricken countries around the world.
Speaking to The Bulletin, Reverend Catriona Laing, associate chaplain for social justice projects at Holy Trinity, said that in just two days, volunteers served 700 meals to Ukrainian refugees at Community Kitchen.
But despite their goodwill and energy, the workload was proving too great to maintain the high demand for meals. Many more cooks would certainly not spoil the broth, admitted Rev Laing, who appealed for more socially conscious people to come forward.
She said that in addition to the 2,000 Ukrainian refugees - a number which is rising every day - Community Kitchen was not about to abandon the 75,000 or more refugees and vulnerable population living from hand-to-mouth in the city.
“It’s important we continue to honour our commitment to provide meals to our Red Cross centre in Brussels to feed other vulnerable people. They still continue to need our help,” she said.
“We have a long-standing commitment to the refugees, homeless and vulnerable who were already here before the awful situation in Ukraine,” said Rev Laing. “We’ve been blessed by goodwill and generosity from people here.”
Volunteers were welcome from all denominations and backgrounds. Russian and Ukrainian speakers are also needed to help translate for the refugees. A willingness to help others and enthusiasm for the cause is important above all else, said Rev Laing.
All meals are vegetarian and made from fresh produce at the Community Kitchen. Ukrainian recipes have been devised, cooked and served hot at the huge make-shift registration centre in Heysel, in an attempt to give a warm welcome to the refugees. A Ukrainian volunteer has already given invaluable advice on authentic dishes, including Chovlent, a rich barley, bean, carrot and tomato dish, that has proved to be a big hit with the refugees. Other traditional recipes will be planned and served such as the Ukrainian national dish Borscht, a beetroot-based meal.
Rev Laing said she, like so many others, was extremely concerned about the war in Ukraine. “It was heart-breaking to see so many frightened and exhausted people waiting in queues when we arrived to deliver the food. There were lots of children and older people there. I spoke with one who was with her grandmother but she had left her mother behind in Ukraine. They were some of the lucky ones though,” she said.
Community Kitchen is supported by the Belgian Red Cross and Serve The City as well as The Salvation Army and youth service L’Olivier. Since the war in Ukraine began, the charities have worked together to send a fleet of convoys carrying food and medical supplies to western Ukraine and Poland in an effort to help war victims.
Community kitchens like the one at Holy Trinity, ensure the needy and vulnerable have access to healthy meals on a regular basis, as well as developing life skills, teaching food budgeting and reducing loneliness and depression through organised social events. They also run regular cookery lessons and encourage other new projects and friendships.
Volunteers at Community Kitchen say they are overwhelmed and delighted that so many people have come forward to lend their help. Rev Laing said: "We are really grateful for the overwhelming response but we are not taking on any more volunteers at the moment. We are so grateful to people who have responded."
Rev Laing assured everyone that the Community Kitchen is still reaching out to the many refugees from across the world as well as the vulnerable and homeless in Brussels, despite the current crisis in Ukraine. During the early days of the war, volunteers were serving hundreds of meals to exhausted and hungry Ukraine refugees awaiting registration in Brussels.