Courage: Dreaming New Dreams in the Big City

Season 2, Episode 11

Brussels, Belgium, and Dubai, UAE are the two most multicultural cities in the world. People move there dreaming of opportunity… but what happens if opportunities fail to materialize, or when it is time to go back?

Meet Marie and Karen, two ladies who help other women find the courage to dream new dreams in these cities… and also one more who has succeeded in making her dream come true. Marie Bennett relates how a Serve the City partnership in Brussels helps migrant women vulnerable to exploitation find courage to envision a new future in employment through volunteer experience. (We also meet one of the women who now has residence papers and a fulfilling job through this program!)

And Karen Ramirez Marine describes how Serve the City Emirates partners with the Sri Lankan Consulate to upskill women returning to Sri Lanka after serving as guest workers in Dubai—training them in crafting upcycled fashion accessories made from recycled materials. Be inspired by the courage of these women… and that of the women they work with.

Listen to this Courage episode here:

Here is another Serving Stories episode focusing on our value of Courage: A Fight for Haiti’s Future. See how Serve the City Haiti is, in the midst of crisis, addressing the issues of child slavery and single motherhood that are behind the catastrophe.

This is the Executive Team of Serve the City Brussels, with Marie Bennett in the centre (one of the stars of this episode). On either side of Marie are Nathan Torrini, Executive Director of Serve the City Belgium, and Jeremie Malengreaux, Associate Director of Finances and Technology. Marie has spent significant time volunteering for STC Brussels for 11 years, and recently has been hired by the team as Associate Director of HR to oversee training of staff and project leaders, as well as projects with vulnerable women such as the Trampoline project she told us about in this episode.

You may find the other two people in this photo vaguely familiar as well… Nathan featured in Season 1, Episode 5B of Serving Stories, where we described the partnership of Serve the City with other NGOs trying to address the humanitarian crisis of migrants without papers on the streets of Brussels. Recommended listening! And Jeremie also designed our Serving Stories logo, so you might have heard his name on our credits at the end of each episode!

Above, you can see Marie working at Le Phare, the project that she described that Serve the City Brussels does in partnership with the Salvation Army. She told us how on Tuesdays they serve a three-course lunch to people from the street, allowing them to hang out all morning to talk and drink coffee. In these pictures, the Friday team is preparing and distributing lunch packets for friends who drop by. This is one of the projects that women from the Trampoline Project enjoyed participating in!

One of the women who participated in the Trampoline project was Roya. Roya came to Europe as a migrant from Iran, passing through many European countries over several years before ending up on the streets in Belgium. Friends from Oasis, STC’s partner in the Trampoline project, found her in a desperate situation, but her interest in cooking gave her the courage to choose the Community Kitchen as a volunteer project. Through this, she found housing, got her papers and now is employed by the Kitchen, helping cook thousands of meals a week of other people in need.

Consulate of Sri Lanka Award for STC Dubai

Karen Ramirez Marine described to us how Serve the City Emirates helps women guest workers from Sri Lanka learn new skills that will help them return home and become entrepreneurs in the fashion industry there. Karen is shown here with consulate officials from the Sri Lankan Consulate, receiving recognition for STC’s work with these women and other members of the Sri Lankan community in Dubai. The partnership with the Consulate is key in identifying women who are finished with their contracts and need empowerment to repatriate well.

Sri Lankan ladies crafting

Serve the City volunteers, as they got to know the Sri Lankan ladies, realized that many of them had handicraft skills and that, with a bit of training, this could become a path to a new future back in Sri Lanka. Here a group of the ladies are doing paper crafts, but they also are learning how to use recycled materials such as secondhand clothes and old soda cans to make fashion accessories. These new skills can help give them the courage to become entrepreneurs on their return home.

Below is a short promotional video put out by Serve the City Emirates to publicize their Sri Lankan Training Program.

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