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Unlock your Energy: Covid-themed cartoon among philanthropy projects for underprivileged kids

Bakayaro youth centre participating in KBF project for kids
15:20 18/08/2021
The Bulletin continues its series on the King Baudouin Foundation’s fast-track projects that aim to counteract some of the isolation experienced by young people around the country. Second up is the Bakayaro youth centre in Schaerbeek, creating comic-strips about coronavirus.

Vulnerable youngsters have been under increased pressure during the Covid pandemic. That’s why Belgium’s leading philanthropy institution the King Baudouin Foundation has launched Unlock your Energy to inject immediate cash into projects to help them get together, develop their skills and have fun after lockdown.

More than 100 initiatives for 15- to 25-year-olds from around the country were selected and more than €800,000 handed out in a fast-track process to kickstart actions over the summer. The projects aim to counteract the negative effects of long periods of social isolation. Whether helping children escape their urban environment, express their emotions or improve their confidence, they focus on giving them a better chance of a successful return to social and educational activities.

Bakayaro youth centre involves troubled kids in community projects

Maison de Jeunes Bakayaro is giving youngsters an opportunity to discuss how they felt oppression during the pandemic in a project entitled ‘Let’s design a healthier world’. Participating in a series of summer workshops, the teenagers are working on five different storylines about their confinement experience for a comic-strip on the theme of Covid.

The non-profit youth centre, located in the Place Dailly area, was awarded €6,500 by KBF for the project. Educator Yassin Bahri explains how it targets 13-19 year-olds and enables them to express their feelings and view of the world in the context of the pandemic. “It’s something of a debate and their real-life stories inspire the comic-strip.”

One of the stories chosen for the cartoon is superheroes (pictured above), showing masked and socially-distanced characters. “The aim is to recount their suffering,” he says. When tackling complicated issues, taking a humourous approach relieves stress and can be more effective, Bahri says. “Kids don’t always understand what has happened over the past 18 months. It’s frightening for them.”

Maison de Jeunes Bakayaro, Schaerbeek

He points out that two-thirds of the youngsters are girls and that four in his group dropped out of school during confinement. “They didn’t have computers and at a certain moment they had to follow lessons via Zoom.” He also highlights teachers’ lack of training in online education as another factor in their non-attendance of classes.

The workshops – conducted separately in French and Dutch – enable participants to learn various skills and techniques, such as creating a story board, filming a short video and using IT programmes. While the majority of the youngsters live in Schaerbeek, some come from Evere and Molenbeek. With a multicultural background, including Morocco, Poland and Russia, Bakayaro aims to foster tolerance among its youngsters. A previous comic-strip project focused on discrimination.

The collaboration between kids from different backgrounds will extend to presenting the finished cartoon. Ideally, this would be in schools and other youth clubs, although Bahri is also looking into the possibility of book fairs.

Bakayaro Maison de Jeunes, Plae Dailly

Founded in 2014 and targetting 12 to 26 year-olds, Bakayaro’s mission is to help youngsters who have experienced difficult journeys reintegrate into society, starting with their neighbourhood. They are encouraged to play an active part in various educational projects, from cinematography and mini-entrepreneurship, to collective vegetable gardening, sports, talk shows and locals newspapers.

A vote of confidence for young people

Jury president and psychology professor at UCLouvain said: “Unlock your Energy is a vote of confidence by the King Baudouin Foundation for young people. By giving them the means to carry out projects together, they are allowed to ‘reset the machine’ after a long period of shutdown. And we are responding to their vital need to recreate social bonds.”

The call for projects at the beginning of the year received 472 applications with a total of 102 selected by an independent jury: 24 in Brussels, 25 in Wallonia and 53 in Flanders. Each one received between €2,500 and €20,000 in support. The project also received financial support from the Solvay Solidarity Fund, the Ackermans & van Haaren Solidarity Fund, and Fit With A Star, in collaboration with Basic Fit.





Written by Sarah Crew