“The challenge for the coming weeks is to continue to be there for the vulnerable people who rely on the support of our teams across the country, whether they reside in our reception buildings or consult our social and legal permanencies; putting all of our effort to ensure that we do not play into the hands of the pandemic,” explains director of Caritas International François Cornet.
Balancing presence and distance from the virus
This unprecedented pandemic in Belgium raises many challenges for Caritas’s public. The Caritas social teams are there to respond, but to also ensure that travel and contact are limited while rigorously deploying the recommended health measures.
Residents in our collective, semi-collective or individual reception centers that are intended for people with fragile health are confined to their private spaces. All group activities, whether community, educational, recreational in Liege are canceled as well as socio-legal hotlines. Social and medical consultations are organized by phone or by appointment. Any outside person including volunteers, are now excluded from our sites.
Ensuring continuity despite COVID-19
Our social service on Rue de la charité in Saint- Josse remains accessible by telephone and by appointment in strict compliance with sanitary measures, taking care to limit the movement of people. This is the reason why we ask you to arrange an appointment by phone (0470 22 39 37 – 0474 69 04 16) or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). The files being processed will be followed up from a distance or by appointment. The collective information sessions are suspended until further notice.
The Brussels region’s hotline is available free of charge every day during confinement for both urgent requests and those in need of an attentive ear. You can contact them at 0800 35 243 (Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm and weekends from 10am to 6pm).
In terms of integration and reintegration, social workers can be reached by phone or by appointment. Requests for voluntary returns to the country of origin and support for reintegration are frozen until further notice. The guardianship service for unaccompanied foreign minors will operate for essential travel and its helpdesk service is available via phone at 0472 72 03 58.
A continuous presence is organized at headquarters to ensure continuity of services, but travel is now limited to critical situations and the majority of staff has been working from home since Monday, March 16. Meetings are now also held remotely by telephone or digitally.
Tackling the pandemic: global and individual response
Many Caritas organizations around the world have adopted similar measures to help such as being directly on the front line of the fight against the virus or alongside isolated, elderly, sick or poor people. When they are not on the front line Caritas continues its food distributions, soup kitchens and organizes emergency accommodation while applying and maintaining the indicated health measures and social distancing. This is particularly the case in Italy, where despite the drastic confinement measures Caritas Italiana continues the operations mentioned above.
Accountability, solidarity and fair distribution of resources are the first remedy to combatting this public health challenge on a global scale and to protect the most vulnerable among us. Our thoughts and prayers are especially with the victims and their families and all those who work in hospitals or elsewhere and are leading the fight against Covid-19.
You can also act by joining the Caritas rescue team! You don’t even have to leave your home, you can support the Coronavirus emergency fund via our online platform or on the BE88 0000 0000 4141 account with the code “Coronavirus 005”.