Thursday, March 13, 2008

Back in Brussels

Did you know the symbol of Brussels is the marsh iris? That's because it grows in swamps and lowlands, like Brussels before urbanization. Now you can impress your friends with your incredible trivia knowledge!

Today, was spent visiting an alternative Flemish vocational school where many of the students are immigrants. The students spend 2 days a week in class and 3 days a week in real life work settings, earning real money. We heard presentations from the Flemish ministry of employment statistics and the federal civil rights office before touring the school and meeting some of the students.

We were treated to a lunch of tradtional Belgian foods by the culinary arts class. It was also their final exam! Carbonnade Flamande, Brussels sprouts, Belgian endives and potatoes au gratin. They also stir fried a yakisoba for us! Yumm!

This boy is one of the students. He came from Mongolia to Belgium on foot when he was only 14. It took a year for him to get here and in the 2 years since, he has thrived. Through a special provision for undocumented minors, he was able to receive his permanent residency just yesterday. Congratulations!!

The afternoon was spent at another agency working with undocumented immigrants. We heard the stories of people from India, Pakistan, and Burundi. Terrible and sad accounts of incredibly resiliant people, who are only looking to work and live and survive in their new adopted country.

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