The residents of the Louvranges Housing take the reins in the kitchen

Caritas International Belgium The residents of the Louvranges Housing take the reins in the kitchen

“I should hang up; I am going to make meatballs!” says Denise* to the five people she is on a video call with on her smartphone. Dispersed across the world, her friends call from Europe and Africa. Denise lives at the Louvranges Housing, our lodging specifically for the reception of single women and mothers. Today, she and five other residents find themselves at the stove for a special day.

As the morning progresses, the pace quickens. Little by little, they become busier and busier. The vegetables and herbs are combined to form a kind of green purée. Carrots are chopped. Onions are peeled. A baby cries. A woman also has tears in her eyes, but in her case the onions are responsible.


“It is lamb meat marinated in spices,” explains Assiatou*. Today, she prepares a dish from her country of origin, Guinea. At the same time, she explains to Safa*, a mother from Djibouti, what is happening in her court case. “At our house we made it like this,” explains Safa. “We both come from Africa, but eat completely differently.”

There are currently 25 women living in the Louvranges Housing. They come from many different countries: Djibouti, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Marrocco, DR Congo, Afghanistan, or even Iraq. Some are newer to the housing, while others have been waiting years for a decision regarding their application for international protection. The different cultures provide opportunities for exchange, including in today’s cooking class.

Caritas International Belgium The residents of the Louvranges Housing take the reins in the kitchen

“Does someone else want to peel the onions?” asks Anne, one of the managers at the Louvranges Housing. She helps the women with two typically Belgian recipes: Belgian meatballs in tomato sauce and “boulettes à la liégeoise” (meatballs).


“This is the last project with the volunteers and residents,” explains Anne. “In September, the women can propose any activities that they would like to do. The objective is to let them build expertise and also make connections with one another.” Today, Assiatou hones her skills in the kitchen and, over the course of the last year, in other areas as well: weaving, skin care, painting… Everyone can participate and contribute in their own way.

Caritas International Belgium The residents of the Louvranges Housing take the reins in the kitchen

“I have chosen to visit different cities,” explains Alika*. With groups of women, she has gone to Louvain, Mons, and Charleroi so far. “Through this, the women get to know Belgium better and form an idea of the place they might want to live when they leave the Louvranges Housing,” explains Anne. “For example, Charleroi does not have a good reputation, but our visit there was very enjoyable.”


Two volunteers manage today’s activities: Giulia and Arnau, both 23-years-old. They started their European voluntary service (EVS) at the Louvranges Housing. Yesterday, they went grocery shopping and today, they spend the day in the kitchen with the women preparing a delicious meal. Day after day, they hope to aid the residents in working towards independent living, organize activities for the children, and are always ready for a good conversation. “I think that the best moments are when we really talk to the women and get to know each other better,” explains Arnau in French with a Spanish accent — Spain being his country of origin. He adds, “It was difficult at the beginning. I struggled with French.”

>>READ ALSO: Volunteers at Louvranges: “Every day here is a discovery” 

At the Louvranges Housing, the different apartments are separate from one another. The women live in pairs or with their children. Giulia and Arnau also live on site. Every apartment has a kitchen, but there are also opportunities to cook together. “Or sometimes, we cook for ourselves and then eat together,” shares Alika. “One time, Giulia prepared an Italian pizza! With a very thin dough, tomatoes, and thyme, it was delicious.” 


Outside, some tables are placed next to each other. They are set with the essentials: glasses, silverware, plates. While the mothers prepare it all, the children play under the supervision of Maria, an educator at the Louvranges Housing.

Caritas International Belgium The residents of the Louvranges Housing take the reins in the kitchen

Three toddlers scream while chasing a white butterfly. A mother rubs sand out of her twin’s hair. Then, the food arrives and is set on the table to be served by our chefs of the day: rice in beautiful half-balls, sauces made from lamb, tomatoes, and sauce liégeois, and the meatballs to go with them. Tastes from Belgium and Guinea are combined in a delicious platter. A number of other cultures can also be seen in the food on the table.


The names are changed to preserve the anonymity of the people mentioned.

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