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"Accompagner" (Accompany) - an Innovative Assumptionist Outreach Initiative in Brussels: An Interview with its Founder and Director, Fr. Guy Leroy

(In 2001 a team of volunteers from the Brussels neighborhood of Koekelberg, under the leadership of the Assumptionists, launched an innovative initiative: accompanying individuals in need as they went through required administrative hoops to receive social services. The idea, simple though it may have been, answered a real need. In 15 years this non-profit organization, called “Accompagner” has lent a hand to more than 6,000 people. At the 2011 general chapter of the Assumptionists it was named one of 7 'mobilizing works' of the institute, works that, by virtue of the nature and quality of their work, serve as flagship ministries deserving of widespread support and imitation throughout the Congregation.)

Accompagner volunteers and staffAccompagner volunteers and staff

- Fr. Guy, how is Accompagner doing?

- Too well….unfortunately!

- Why do you say, « Unfortunately »?

- This year volunteers and salaried staff have been extraordinarily dedicated to the cause of the neediest. We have “accompanied » more than a thousand people to various sites, 1037 to be exact. More than 70 volunteers have taken part. This number has been rising each year and this is the first year we have broken a thousand. More than 100 other organizations have requested our help. Unfortunately, this means that poverty and insecurity are increasing in Belgium, and in Brussels in particular.

- You mentioned more than 70 ‘companion’ volunteers although at times you also used the number closer to 40.

- Yes, on average, we have about 40 volunteers available at any given moment to do the work. There is a large turnover among the volunteers. Many young people do not stay for a long time. The fact that they’re able to get back into the professional world renews their confidence and employers’ confidence in them. After a few months they are able to get back into the work world. For them Accompagner becomes a springboard to full-time employment. Fortunately, we’re always getting new volunteers.

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