Connecting local responses around the world
Back to Molenbeek . . .
. . . This time on a smaller, but certainly not less important scale!
During one of the follow-up meetings on the Molenbeek initiative, there was a new face in the circle: Karim Azemian, a co-founder of ASBL Repère, an organization that seeks to accompany young people who have lost their anchor (the meaning of Repère) in society.
After having had a look at their website, Anne-Lies and I decided to visit them. We were impressed by their initiatives and their philosophy and wanted to learn more.
So, one cold and sunny Thursday morning, off we were to knock on their door. At first, we were not even sure we were at the right address: No sign at the door, no indication that the very ordinary looking building hosted a vibrant meeting space for young people. But before we could doubt ourselves more, the door was enthusiastically opened by Karim who gave us a hearty welcome.
We entered the space where the table was set for a lavish breakfast (if only I had known . . . ), with fresh mint tea, crepes, bread and fruit. What a warm welcome! Besides Karim, we were privileged to meet Naima and Kais, both volunteers at ASBL Repère.
After explaining a bit what we were all about and our own raison d’être, we wanted to hear their story. And what a story it was:
Karim explained that the organization was founded some 15 years ago. It was born out of the realization that—even at that time--there were so many young people in Molenbeek who had truly lost their bearings due to a variety of reasons. Thus, Karim and friends took it upon themselves to create a space where youngsters can be safe, where they can be themselves, where they can open up and show the diamonds that live inside each one of them.
What makes the ASBL different from some other initiatives for young people? For one thing, they do not have a set method or doctrine they work with. Each individual that comes through their doors is treated as just that: an individual, a person with dreams, talents, passions, but also with fears, difficult habits, anger, and sometimes despair.
They welcome these youngsters with love and respect and help them see their positive qualities and to build on them, to make their dreams come true. Needless to say, this involves an often long and arduous journey. Repère accompanies not only the young people themselves, but also works with their families and friends. The goal is to create an environment where these young people can thrive. That is the bulk of their work, while the creative and fun gatherings at their space really are only “the cherry on top.”
When asked where they receive their funding from, Karim’s face darkened. That is, in fact, their greatest problem. Years ago, they received grants from the Roi Baudouin Foundation and later from an insurance company near Botanique. But these days, they are really struggling. The irony in this situation is that there are organizations that claim to be working with young disadvantaged people, but in order to receive financial support they do have to subscribe to an ideology that matches that of their donors. Since ASBL Repère vehemently rejects such an approach, they find it harder to come by any financial support.
We were extremely saddened by this tale, because we at the Constellation, share their mindset and approach to 100 %: Finding out what makes us human, what is Alive in each of these young people, what are their particular strengths, and to respond to their individual needs in the best way possible.