The “towering flower” in Foyer’s well-known logo is symbolic of our entire history. Since the clearing of buildings around Brussels North station in a flurry of construction in the late 1960s, our volunteers – and increasingly our team members too – have helped our activities to flourish. Our alternative social initiatives have put these shiny new tower blocks in the shade.
Driven by the characteristic enthusiasm of the times, it all began as a centre for youth work. That youth centre was forced to move from the North quarter to Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, where it fully bloomed. At the beginning of the 1970s, children and young people came in huge numbers to Foyer, with its kitchen, film activities and of course the little zoo, complete with its own lion. This initial period of growth came to an end at the end of the decade. A youth centre alone was no longer enough to deal with the social challenges of the day. Girls in migrant families were staying away once they reached puberty; some of the boys were turning to crime. Following a restructuring, it was time to grow again.
This renewed period of growth followed at the beginning of the 1980s, with the launch of our women’s network, Dar al Amal. The Foyer Training Centre was also created, for youngsters who had dropped out of school. The “Welcome” social service guaranteed individual guidance, and a series of bicultural, multilingual projects began in Dutch-language education in Brussels.
Hundreds of migrant pupils flourished thanks to these services, becoming multilingual citizens who easily found work. In the middle of the 1980s, Foyer helped popularise Dutch classes for low-skilled adults in the Dutch language centre for migrants.. The social service was joined by a respected legal service. Finally, we launched Intec Foyer, an IT training project for those with low skill levels. But activities that had grown so successfully could continue to grow without Foyer. CNM was therefore absorbed into adult education (by the current “Huis van het Nederlands”) and Intec Foyer became part of Intec Brussels.
In the 1990s an Intercultural Mediation Service for people of all ages was set up by Foyer.
The turn of the century brought even more activities, chief among them the Roma Service that empowered the Eastern European Roma and Traveller communities. The mission of Brussels Integration through Sport (BIS) was to allow locals with a migration background to get involved in sport and, wherever possible, to help them excel. Another new initiative was “Compass”, which provided integration courses for newcomers who didn’t speak the local language; it was eventually taken over by the Agency for Integration and Citizenship.
Three years before our 50th anniversary in 2019 – and at the request of the Foyer faithful – a Men’s Group was established, which complemented the existing practical activities of the Men’s Workshop with sport, debate and a friendly place to meet. And, on October 12th 2019 the MigratieMuseumMigration opened.
This is just the latest way in which Foyer has allowed a thousand flowers to bloom – and it certainly won’t be the last.