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Expats welcome! Belgian organisations appeal for volunteers as Covid causes numbers to drop
English-speakers are more than welcome in many volunteering organisations and fluent Dutch or French is not required, says the King Baudouin Foundation (KBF). In a timely reminder that volunteering is not a Belgians-only affair, it aims to boost numbers following a decline due to Covid-19.
Belgium’s leading philanthropy institution highlighted the current plight for the voluntary sector following research it funded by the University of Ghent on the importance of volunteering in Belgium. As it was based on 2019 figures – and did not reflect the situation during the pandemic – the KBF referred to the 2020 Associations Barometer report that during March and September 2020, 33% of associations in Belgium saw volunteer numbers drop by half.
This was due to the reliance on over 60s – the age group most at risk of suffering complications from the virus. They spend 294 hours on volunteering on average per year, compared to 147.6 hours for the 30-39 age group.
But the UGent research concluded that voluntary engagement of citizens is crucially important for our society. “Volunteers detect unnoticed needs in society and try to do something about them. They are essential components of our democracies and they develop outside of the contingencies of profitability.”
The KBF points out that most cities and communes have a website or volunteering hub with a database and contact details for many organisations needing volunteers of all ages.
For retired expatriates, this can be a particularly interesting option to remain active and involved in the community. Under Belgian law, pensioners can volunteer without any special authorisation and without affecting any pension or family-related allowances.
Any organisation using volunteers draws up a volunteering agreement which guarantees a volunteer's legal status and arranges for insurance. Although volunteering work is unpaid, expenses such as travel costs may be refunded in some cases.
- Serve the City is a global movement of volunteers working mostly with the homeless, the elderly, the disabled, orphanages and asylum-seekers. It has several offices in Belgium, including Brussels, Mons and Sint-Truiden.
- www.giveaday.be matches volunteers with relevant organisations.
- Websites with full details of volunteering centres and opportunities include Volunteering in Belgium: Why, How, Where - Talentree, which will help you identify the area of voluntary work which interests you. For small ads seeking volunteers, have a look at https://pro.guidesocial.be/benevolat.
- The KBF’s https://bonnescauses.be website lists many verified charities, depending on whether you want to give your money or your time.