A much-needed charity for Belgium’s English speaking community has seen a huge rise in referrals in the past two years.
The Community Help Service, based in Brussels, provides a 24 hour helpline for people who feel the need to speak to someone about a personal problem, including possible mental health issues.
The service is unique in that it provides counselling for people who prefer to speak in English. It is used not just by British expats but many other English speaking nationalities in Belgium.
According to Stephen Mazurkiewicz, from the CHS, the service has witnessed a big increase in calls, including during the health pandemic.
Stephen told this site: “Our volunteers, and it is important to stress they are all volunteers, try to provide help and advice for those in need for whatever reason but, yes, there has been a big rise.”
There are several reasons for the rise, says the CHS, including issues related to the health crisis, but the fact that calls have risen so much suggests, he said, that the service has “never been more needed than now.”
“The CHS is an essential service for the expat community and many others here in Belgium.”
The CHS is also funded entirely by voluntary contributions, said Stephen, its treasurer.
Meanwhile, the Brussels British Community Association, or BBCA, has donated €2,500 to the Belgian charity Child Focus.
Child Focus is the Belgian Foundation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children. Some 25 years ago, the charity was created after a shocking, traumatic event that touched the whole of Belgium: the Dutroux-case. Marc Dutroux abducted and exploited three pairs of girls. Six girls between 8 and 17 years old. He ended up murdering four of them. Shocked and outraged, Belgium came together in what became known as the White March.
To support the parents and the survivors, but mostly to ask for change, Child Focus was set up.
A spokesman for the charity said, “And the promise that we made 25 years ago, is still what thrives us today: never again will we leave victims alone. We will always be there for them. To help them, be the link between them and the police, look for long-term help and support them. 24/7.
“But Child Focus also invests in prevention of these phenomena. We put in a lot of time and effort to prevent children from becoming a victim. Sexual exploitation of children has massively changed. It shifted. From online to offline. Or the combination of both. Online sexual exploitation became one of our core topics. Operational but also when it comes to prevention. We have developed a lot of tools and resources to make these topics accessible for children and their parents, teachers or social workers. It is not easy to discuss eSafety, sexting, grooming or sextortion.
“Therefore, we make it our mission to help create and shape this conversation. We don’t shy away from difficult topics, such as child sexual abuse material or exploitation of minors in prostitution. By giving words, well-chosen words, to these phenomena we try to bring them into the light and avoid victims getting stuck in the darkness of denial.”
Glenn Vaughan, from the BBCA, said, “We try to raise funds not for those things that, frankly, many of us can afford but, rather, for good and needy causes such as Child Focus.”
“This is a very important charity in Belgium. We are keen to help our community but also our host community ie Belgium. Many of us came to Belgium thinking we would stay just a few years but ended up staying much, much longer. It is a great place to live and Belgium has made us welcome and this is why we always have an eye on helping our host country.”
Further info can be found at https://childfocus.be/fr-be