Community Kitchen Helping Refugees in Brussels

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have fled the war are now travelling further West across Europe. This week, hundreds are queuing outside a Reception Centre at Porte de Hal in Brussels. The queue which includes many children, moves very slowly.  

The Community Kitchen at the Anglican Pro Cathedral, Holy Trinity Brussels, which was set up in 2019, is gearing up to help. Gayl Russell the Project Manager did an online Cash & Carry order on Tuesday spending €1000 buying, amongst other things, seventy kilos of apples, 500 bottles of water and one hundred kilos of rice – ingredients for 2 weeks’ worth of extra meals they intend to cook for the new refugees. 

On Wednesday, they made an extra 200 meals on top of the regular 450 a day and took them down to the queue of Ukrainian refugees. Despite the incredible generosity of the public who have given lots of snacks, biscuits, chocolate the refugees were delighted to receive a full hot meal of rice in a spicy tomato veggie bean sauce.


Pictured: Cooking Chovlent, a Hungarian dish, to take to the refugees waiting in the queue for the Reception Centre..

The kitchen already provides 2500 meals a week to the Red Cross Refugee Centre which is in another part of the city.  There are volunteers who come in to cook, whilst others portion up the meals into containers which are for the mainly African and Arab refugees already in need of support in Belgium.  So, the Community Kitchen is currently working out how it can increase its capacity.  As Rev’d Dr Catriona Laing (Associate Chaplain, Social Justice Projects at Holy Trinity) points out.  “The needs are desperate, but it is essential that we continue to honour our commitment to provide meals to the Red Cross refugee centre otherwise I am worried about the potential for resentment.  All these people need our help.”

On Thursday this week, when normally the kitchen is quiet, they will be making 450 portions of a Ukrainian casserole called Chovlent.  It is a barley, bean and mushroom dish.  The idea to cook this meal came from one of the volunteers whose father is Ukrainian.  The Community Kitchen discovered that lots of the refugees in the queue are planning to camp out overnight to keep their place, so the volunteers planned an early start and the meals will be on site by 11am. 

Gayl is a lawyer and a self-confessed foodie.  She began helping in the Community Kitchen in 2019 when it started.  Now as the Project Manager, she volunteers there almost full time and she says they will continue to cook more whenever it is needed.  She says ‘We had a group of Belgium school children helping us this week and they made cakes and muffins for the refugees.” 

The Community Kitchen grew during the pandemic and now it is growing again.  Donations from the Diocese in Europe and USPG appeal will help them as they work to meet these new needs. You can read Bishop Robert's letter for his Lent Appeal 2022 here. 

Please give what you can to the appeal here to enable these and other projects around the Diocese in Europe helping refugees.