When a colleague of Mathilde, CORVIA asbl’s secretary, read about the initiative of a Saudi Arabian citizen that put a fridge on the street, offering everybody to bring and take food for free, they didn’t need to think twice about doing the same here, in Brussels...
Mathilde highlights the importance of the relations and the impact on both the citizens and the environment. On one side, this different provision system respects people’s value and stresses the meaning of the gift. On the other, it’s a useful means to decrease the food waste that both citizens, food retailers and canteens produce every day.
The way the open fridge works is very easy: everyone can store fresh or left food in it, as long as they pack it in a proper way and indicate the date of the storage.
Even if only few people gave their contribution to the project at the beginning, it started really soon to involve more and more citizens. This last sunday 15 people delivered food and another 30 people came to take a portion. Mathilde is really enthusiastic about this ever increasing number of people. Restaurants and canteens have taken up the habit of first calling Corvia, asking about the availability to collect the left meals and proceed to their arrangement. Food retailers easily reach the fridge by their own and the same goes for citizens. When going to the supermarket, the people of the neighbourhood often buy an extra bag of fresh food to fill the fridge.
At first people felt ashamed to show their poverty and use the open fridge, but after a while they overcame this feeling and started to become regular customers.
Since the fridge is located in front of the social hostel, the latest idea of Corvia is to arrange a terrace so that all the people passing by there can also enjoy spending time together and break with the loneliness.
Considering both the numbers and the type of contribution offered by the people, it’s quite easy to come at the conclusion that the local community answers to Corvia's call in a really enthusiastic way. And all this works without any incorrect use from either side of the users. The thing that maybe help to keep order is the good management provided by the asbl’s volunteers and a video surveillance system that is also used by the people to thank or greet the social workers. Mathilde explains that she knows almost all the homeless people living in the city and that she really has close relationships with many of them.
la Garde-robe Ouverte
Corvia is named after COR, which in Latin means heart, and VIA, meaning street. Creating a link between these two words it’s quite easy to realize that the aim of the association is to provide people living on the streets with services and actions based on solidarity and empathy. The open wardrobe is the last project that contributes to pursue Corvia's aim to fight poverty and social exclusion. The wardrobe follows the same guidelines as the open fridge: everybody is free to offer discarded clothes and everybody is welcome to take what they need, with a maximum of 6 clothes per month. But those who want to make use of clothes, have to provide a service. Mathilde underlines that it’s called “réciproque”, and it goes from sharing time working in the garden, providing dance courses, going to museums, to offering different things as fair exchange. The commitment is once a year and all the proposals are collected in a board so that everybody can check and choose the preferred ones. In this project the value of the people and the exchange is really stressed too, since the name of the ones who offer a service and what they exactly undertake to share with the community are clearly noted on the board. The next step of the project is to collect also accessories, shoes and makeup, so that people in need can find all that is necessary to start with a new, at least esthetic, life.
Corvia exists for 25 years, having around 50 people supporting the disadvantaged and the so called excluded citizens. Mathilde stresses that all the projects are carried on without any sort of public funds and even if they work together with other associations, this collaboration is not formulated as a formal partnership. Corvia wants to run its activities without any sort of strict regulation or bureaucratic process, so they only receive funds from private sponsors to maintain their operational freedom. The association members’ group is composed by professionals that belong to several different sectors, from the medical to the legal one, so that the users can be supported in relation to a wide range of problems. A group of volunteers provide its contribution as well. The participation of those who will be the users is highlighted as a fundamental characteristic of the association's way to plan and implement projects. Even if both the services and the activities are addressed to a wide range of users, without any distinctions, the association’s projects targeted mainly the homeless people. The asbl, indeed, during the years implemented a social hostel which hosts 5 tenants, provided hundreds of people living on the street with a backpack equipped with tools for eating meals and tacking care of personal hygiene, handled out anti-attack kits and organized Miss and Mister Homeless. The last projects concerning the open fridge and wardrobe have a wider range of users but the next coming “love room” will provide homeless with a proper place where to live their own private moments.
You can find the public fridge at 444 Boulevard Lambermont.