Twelve volunteers are currently working in Belgium – seven in the Flemish-speaking and five in the French-speaking part of the country. The volunteers are supported by the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace branch office in Brussels.
ARSP has been active in Belgium since 1963, but until 2004, volunteers were supported by ARSP’s branch offices in Amsterdam and Paris. The branch office in Brussels has given ARSP’s work in Belgium its very own profile.
In 1963, some 20 years after the German occupation of Belgium, ARSP volunteers began constructing a halfway house for adolescents in Wasmuel near Mons. This region had suffered extensively under German occupation and was especially aggrieved due to the crisis in mining and the end of Belgian colonialism.
The construction activities in Wasmuel led to close ties being established between the Belgian population and the volunteers. By 1970, there were no less than 15 volunteers working throughout Belgium. Thanks to ecumenical contacts to churches and parishes, the work of the ARSP volunteers in Belgium was expanded to include a broad range of projects. Volunteers have been working for the seamen’s mission in Antwerp since 1980 and for the Auschwitz Foundation in Brussels since 1989. In 1998, they began to cooperate with Jewish partners in the Brussels region. The volunteers visit survivors of National Socialism in a Jewish retirement home; they perform archival work and participate in the recording of interviews with historical witnesses. Due to the successful collaboration between ARSP volunteers and the various project partners, it has been possible to strengthen existing ties to Jewish communities and institutions even as new project partnerships are developed. The volunteers are also involved in projects for disabled people and women’s projects.
Belgium is part of ARSP’s international programme for volunteers from Germany.