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Start date: May 1, 2016, End date: Apr 30, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

he project is an ongoing venture and has entered its sixth year of existence. It started as an initiative of local volunteers from the migrant community in Brussels’ North district, seeking to offer asylum seekers food and moral support on the day of their first asylum claim in the Belgian capital. The very beginnings were rather modest and ad hoc since there was a clear lack of funding and lack of a coherent organisational structure. That is why Flemish Refugee Action gladly took over the initiative in 2009 and turned it into a full-fledged project: changing the venue, broadening the scope of activities, providing sustained budget and coordination, and last but not least turning it into a daily noon activity, with clear aims and objectives.Those objectives were and still are very simple and clear : - reaching a handhold to asylum seekers on the practical level (basic information about the forthcoming procedure and their rights) - providing them with a warm meal and a reassuring environment on the day of their first contact with the formal asylum procedure in BelgiumThe main activities were thus, until 2014, two-fold: providing soup and giving information, on a daily basis. These still exist and remain the cornerstone of Start.point’s operation but have since early 2014 been expanded with a flurry of additional socio-cultural activities: photography workshops, knitting workshops, world cuisine workshops, training sessions on the Dublin procedure, intercultural football games, visits to Mini-Europe, Dutch conversation tables, ...All of these additional initiatives have a low threshold for participation in order to reach the following (new) objectives:- bringing Belgians and refugees/newcomers together and offering the latter a possibility to widen their social/professional network, exercise their hobbies, improve their language skills – in short actively supporting their (further) integration into Belgian society.The project is coordinated by two staff members of Flemish Refugee Action and relies on the support of approximately a dozen volunteers per day, drawn from a volunteer reserve of over 150 people. They help provide soup and information for 50 to 100 asylum seekers per day and assist, participate and co-organise the aforementioned socio-cultural activities and workshops. Many of the volunteers are (ex-)asylum seekers. Local migrant groups, commuters from the nearby office buildings and employees of international organizations based in Brussels are also represented. In this way we strive to achieve a unique mix of asylum seekers, refugees, (old) newcomers and Belgians across the social spectrum and regardless of their position in the project activities (volunteer or participant).The methodology we use in preparing, executing and evaluating the project and its results is based on our PCM (Project Cycle Management)-module and relies heavily on empirical observations, clear and steady documentation/archiving, periodical surveys among volunteers and external partners, transparent communication/dissemination and detailed analyses and frequent brainstorming sessions regarding outcomes, achievements and the eventual readjustment of objectives/goals.The impact, results and longer term benefits of the project can be considered as a unit and divided in two spheres - the tangible one and the more abstract one. The latter partly encompasses the soft skills volunteers acquire in the course of participating in project activities (communication, social skills, language skills, networking, self-confidence, ...) and the potential benefits this provides for the migrant community itself and the Belgian society as a whole. No less important is the policy aspect of all our grassroots projects, Start.point included: by maintaining close contact with our target group we seek to identify its grievances, structural problems, new patterns, and to subsequently serve as whistleblower for policymakers regarding important issues in the refugee/migration debate - by means of our dedicated policy department. The policy staff mould the signals received from Start.point (and other grassroots projects) into clear and relevant policy recommendations and communicate them to the relevant authorities and the public opinion by means of advocacy work, media campaigns etc.The tangible part of the project results is quite evident: we provide asylum seekers with essential information and a warm meal, on a daily basis. We have been doing this for more than five years now and have earned the recognition of the authorities as well as of our numerous volunteers and even more numerous refugees served in the Start.point ever since 2009.
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