A story about a hotel owner in Brussels who spares his rooms for refugees who need a place to recuperate. He feeds them too, free of charge.
It’s a Sunday evening in November and I’m in Brussels, Belgium.
I’m walking around Grand Place, a central square in Brussels. It’s chilly. It’s a tourist destination so it’s full of foreigners enjoying Belgium beer, mussels & fries (moules frites), chocolate and of course, the Belgium waffles.
Nearby, there’s a charming hotel named ‘Hotel Mozart’ but when I went in, I saw a whole other side to Brussels. A world far away from the wealthy expat bubble that Brussels is better known for. Here’s why…
This is Ben Abderrahman the owner of Hotel Mozart. I had read about him before I arrived in Brussels and I wanted to meet him. He was busy making phone calls when I walked in, so I waited until he finished.
He showed me around his beautiful hotel with mosaic tiled walls. Then he hastily said he needed to go and asked me to follow him – after all I was there to find out what he does.
We get in his car, and he drives for around 10 minutes to this Red Cross shelter that is filled with refugees lining up for food. This was around the time there was an influx of refugees into Europe in late 2015, predominantly because of the conflict in Syria. Ben was looking to see if he could help the Red Cross team by housing a refugee family for the night. There was a park nearby where refugees would sleep at while they wait for migration papers but it’s very cold at night, so sleeping in a park is not ideal for families. The Red Cross volunteer said there was no family that needed a place to stay.
So we now go to his home which is walking distance from his hotel where a lady is cooking a big pot of soup. He tells me that’s dinner. It’s quite a big pot so I’m wondering for who?
We go back to the hotel and he introduces me to this family. They are refugees from Afghanistan. They had travelled for almost 6 months via land and water to get to Europe. Ben picked them up at a park where they were waiting for migration papers.
They waved as soon as they saw me taking a photo.
The oldest child, Amirkah is 10-years-old. They didn’t speak much English, but he knew how to count to 10. He also said, “Afghanistan, no good. Brussels, good.”
This is just one of the many families that Ben has brought back to his hotel to temporarily stay for free. He provides them a place to recuperate for what is an exhausting journey for the displaced citizens across Europe.And that big pot of soup that I saw earlier in the night, that was for them and the many other families that were staying there that night. I walked down into this dining hall and all the tables are filled. Everybody is hungry and patiently waiting for Ben to start serving up the food. He tells me he serves dinner there, for anyone who genuinely needs it, every night. Free.
It was at this moment that my heart was touched by Ben’s generosity. His heart for giving inspires me. In the spirit of World Refugee Day, I hope this inspires you too.
20 June is World Refugee Day. The UNHCR says that as of the end of 2015, there are 65.3 million people worldwide that are forcibly displaced from their homes.
© 2014 GLOBALCITIZENSAM