“Our studio is a heritage of the dance community, we had to save it!”

David Launched a crowdfunding campaign to save a popular art and contemporary dance centre from bankruptcy Belgium, Brussels

Some ventures are always worth saving, no matter what it takes. This is how the team of Belgium’s Tictac Art Centre came to feel as they witnessed the world going into lockdown. “We are a young non-profit organisation that promotes art and contemporary dance from the local to the international level. We progressively became a popular meeting point for the European and intercontinental dance scene”, David Zambrano, director of the Tictac Art Centre, explains. As Belgium enforced its own containment measures, the group was quick to realise that their entire project was at risk of not overcoming the crisis. After several weeks looking for potential solutions, they ended up launching a crowdfunding campaign. “We had to save the project, and crowdfunding was one of the few possibilities left. The campaign ended up being a huge success. We can clearly say now that we could never have survived without the support of all the artists, dancers, students and art enthusiasts who donated”, David concludes.

“Togolese families are struggling. I just had to do something”

Kadi Prepares and delivers food kits for young mothers and newborns in Togo Belgium, Brussels

Kadi lives in Belgium and couldn’t bear the sight of families back in her home country struggling. “I’m from Togo and the situation there is particularly bad due to Covid-19. People are struggling with the curfew and their already small income has dramatically gone down.”  She had to do something. Kadi decided to distribute food kits specifically for pregnant women and their newborns. Over 100 kits have already been prepared for distribution across Sokodé, the northern part of Togo. “The idea is to provide these families with the bare minimum needed for a positive start to motherhood”, Kadi explains. “We also collaborate with doctors and pay for medical consultations when needed”. The EU is well aware of non-EU countries’ struggles. A EUR 20 billion “Team Europe” package has been developed to help them fight the Covid-19 crisis. Meanwhile, a humanitarian air bridge transports emergency supplies to critical areas around the world.

“I just wanted to be there”

Elena Put her experience at the European Parliament's medical service to work for CHU Saint-Pierre's Covid-19 patients Belgium, Brussels

As one of the hospitals at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 in Brussels, CHU Saint-Pierre needed all the help they could get. Elena was quick to volunteer: “I just wanted to be there”, she explains. Elena had just finished a one-year experience working at the European Parliament Brussels’ medical service but on 16 April she joined CHU Saint-Pierre’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “I arrived when the worst was behind them, but all ICU beds were still occupied by Covid-19 patients. My duty was to help the nurses on the front line. We took care of patients, gave them treatments, and provided crucial support”, she says. With Belgium now on the path to recovery, Elena has been told she can return home. “I wanted to stay until Covid-19 was behind us, but it was time for me to get back to my job. My heart will always be torn between the hospital and Parliament”, she concludes.

“I wouldn't have got home without the EU's help”

Awa Returned home safely thanks to the EU's assistance Belgium, Brussels

Some European citizens were stuck abroad as EU Member States closed down their borders. We all know that the best place to be during this crisis is at home, but what if you had found yourself stranded abroad when the virus struck? Take Awa for instance. Originally from Belgium, she found herself stranded in Senegal during a trip there. The European Emergency Response Coordination Centre organised flights back to Europe so that Awa, and thousands of other EU residents, could get back home safely. The European Union is helping Member States to coordinate assistance and consular repatriation operations of EU citizens from across the world, wherever they may be. So far they have helped some 85,000 people return home to Europe during the crisis.

“Vie Féminine strives to help women claim their social rights while maintaining social bonds”

Yasmina and Fatima Provide women in need with a call service and Facebook group where they can help each other Belgium, Charleroi

In Belgium, women facing difficult situations can always call feminist organisation “Vie Féminine” for help. But COVID-19 created an additional challenge: women’s need for help grew, while the organisation found it increasingly difficult to organise its work. To solve this problem, Fatima and Yasmina had to innovate. They quickly organised seven-days-a-week hotlines to maintain social bonds and allow women in Charleroi to exercise their social rights by phone. The same support has been organised by Vie Féminine in 5 regions of Wallonia. Alongside the calls, the two Vie Féminine representatives created a Facebook group named “Confined and United”. “This group allows women to keep in touch and stand next to each other during the lockdown. From personal initiatives including ideas to keep children entertained, food distribution, and help in case of emergencies, we successfully created a common spirit of mutual aid between members of the group” Fatima and Yasmina explain.

“I love my job and I certainly intend to keep doing it”

Jacqueline Reassigned to the COVID department of her hospital Belgium, Brussels

The World Health Organization declared 2020 to be the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife” in celebration of the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale. It was completely unexpected that this would also be the year of an international health crisis that has now touched every level of society. Today the entire world is grappling with the impact of the pandemic, with nurses on the front lines of this fight. Many nurses have had to adapt their usual roles, just like Jacqueline, who usually works in physiotherapy but now directly helps COVID-19 patients. This type of adjustment is not new to nursing. Throughout history, the nursing profession has played major roles in times of crisis and provided care and innovation that has saved lives and reduced suffering. The European Union is working to ensure that all healthcare workers have access to the proper equipment they need to do such a vital job while remaining safe.

“We are 100% there for our clients”

Erika Owns a grocery shop that stepped up delivery services out of solidarity Belgium, Heppenbach

As the pandemic continues, older people and those belonging to vulnerable groups may think twice before going to the supermarket. That's why Erika's shop, located in a small village in Belgium, is reinforcing delivery services so that everyone can continue to have access to essential items. Erika uses social media to let her customers know that the shop still has the products they need and is also supporting local producers as an additional way of showing solidarity with the local supply chain. Erika is part of the "Emma 2.0" association, which brings together local shops in Belgium's German-speaking community. Their current focus is on social responsibility projects in less populated rural areas.

“Due to Covid, many people do not have enough to eat. A food donation can make a big difference”

Mohamed, Bilal and Hamza Deliver food parcels to households in need Belgium, Brussels

Due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many households are under financial pressure and have less money available for food. Single-parent families, the unemployed, students, refugees, immigrants, and many others face food shortages. The donation of food parcels can therefore bring reassurance to many homes. That's why Mohamed, Bilal, and Hamza, three friends from the Anneessens district of Brussels, decided to set up such a solidarity initiative when the confinement began. They prepare and deliver food packages donated directly by individuals or retailers, without any financial sponsorship. Today, more than twenty volunteers take part in the activity and, inspired by their impact, similar initiatives have started popping up in other areas of Brussels.

“Together, let's make our invisible neighbours visible in our hearts”

Cynthia Provides quality meals to homeless people Belgium, Brussels

The association "Solidarité Grands Froids" is a volunteer led organisation that works with homeless people in Brussels year round. Due to the Covid crisis, most of the associations working with homeless people closed their premises, making the daily life of our "invisible neighbours" even more difficult. Cynthia Simpson, founder of the association, decided that she could not sit back while the sanitary crisis affected even more this vulnerable group. Together with a group of eight other volunteers of her team and two renowned chefs, she decided to provide people in need with good quality healthy food. The word got around very quickly that at 16h00 they serve delicious food in the main train stations of Brussels and around the city centre. They also offer a bag of "goodies" including hygiene products, clean socks and other products offered by donors.

“While COVID-19 measures are crucial, they must respect the human rights and dignity of all”

Anne-Sophie Takes into consideration the needs of older people Belgium, Overijse

The rights and dignity of older people must be respected during COVID-19. Anne-Sophie is the Secretary General of AGE Platform Europe, a large EU network advocating for such rights. Older people contribute immeasurably to their families and communities – commonly sacrificing their own well-being to care for others, including helping with grandchildren, relatives and neighbours who need assistance. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, all AGE staff have been raising awareness of the virus' impact on the rights of older persons and clarifying ethical issues. Health and long-term care services for older persons must recognize and confront the particular challenges they face, including their ability to access medical treatment and care. In consultation with their members, AGE has published a position paper on COVID-19 and Older Persons Rights, and has created a special webpage with examples of how to provide support to isolated older persons.

“We are committed to doing our part to make a COVID-19 vaccine available and affordable as quickly as possible”

Pan-European consortium for a fast-track development of a single-dose COVID19 vaccine Joined forces to develop and manufacture a novel adenovirus-based vaccine Belgium, Brussels

To protect high-risk groups, contain the spread of the disease, and mitigate the burden on healthcare systems, a vaccine is urgently required. Besides developing a safe and protective vaccine, it is equally important to manufacture millions of affordable vaccine doses in record time. In support of these objectives, three European biotech companies have formed a pan-European consortium. Italian ReiThera Srl., German LEUKOCARE AG, and Belgian Univercells S.A., have announced a collaboration for the development and manufacture of a vaccine against COVID-19. The vaccine candidate is expected to enter clinical trials during summer 2020 with large-scale vaccine production planned to start soon after. The partners will combine their unique expertise in vector-based vaccine development, vaccine formulation, and manufacturing, respectively. The EU has also organised an online fundraiser that aims to raise an initial €7.5 billion for vaccines, medicines, and diagnostics to fight the coronavirus worldwide.

“The workers help us, and now we need help to protect them”

Julie and Cathy Connect donors and seamstresses to those workers who are in need of protective gowns Belgium, Brussels

Julie (founder) and Cathy launched the Facebook group 'Les Petites Mains Bruxelloises pour des Blouses'. Donors give bedsheets, duvet covers or tablecloths and volunteers, who usually sew as a hobby, turn them into gowns for healthcare workers. To date, the group has provided hospitals and residential homes with over fifty gowns. Julie and Cathy are currently searching for additional volunteers, in order to meet demand for 500 gowns.

“Give us threads and needles so we can weave bonds of solidarity”

Masque tissu - Solidarité Coronavirus Fosters a community for the distribution and creation of DIY masks Belgium, Brussels

Masks are a useful tool to prevent us from spreading COVID-19, and to protect those around us. However, due to high demand, single-use masks can be hard to come by. 'Masque tissu - Solidarité Coronavirus - Belgique' wanted to solve this problem through the creation and distribution of reusable masks. The Facebook group permits those who need masks to get in direct contact with the people making them.

“I am proud of my colleagues working hard to help our local community”

Joelle Works at a company offering healthful food choices to shoppers Belgium, Brussels

It is important to stay healthy and ensure access to responsible and sustainable food choices during lockdown. Joelle works at a co-op grocery store for local, ethical, and organic products. She explained that the company works to promote nourishing diets, even in these exceptional times. In such difficult circumstances, solidarity is crucial between colleagues, customers, and all Europeans. We must recognize the great efforts local businesses are undertaking to support their communities and producers, especially in moments of crisis.

“We couldn't stand by and watch Italy suffer from afar. Doing your part is what Europe is all about”

Rete dei Giovani Italiani in Belgio Raises funds to support the Italian Red Cross in Europe's most critically hit country Belgium, Brussels

For Italians living abroad, it is heart-breaking to see Italy being hit so terribly by the pandemic. The Young Italians Network in Belgium (REGIB) decided to contribute concretely via a fundraiser to support the Italian Red Cross (CRI). Proceeds from the fundraiser help CRI staff and volunteers on the front line to provide medical assistance, support the population, and organise assistance services. Such citizen solidarity actions are further enhanced at a European level. To facilitate collaboration between member states, the EU Cross-border Health Threat Decision ensures access to fairly priced and distributed medical supplies everywhere in Europe, enabling particularly hard hit countries like Italy to procure the equipment they need.

“I'm helping other Europeans while doing what I love most”

Elena Launched a series of free online yoga classes Belgium, Brussels

As the world started organizing itself online, Elena decided to offer online yoga classes for free to those stuck at home due to the lockdown. The response has been overwhelming, with participants offering donations totalling over 1500 Euros for Italian hospitals in the first two weeks. Promoting the value of togetherness and European solidarity can be done in all sorts of ways. Elena's practice is an inspiring example of how we can bring people together from all over Europe while still following the relevant health and civic recommendations. Online solidarity can be also seen across a range of digital companies, with Netflix, Youtube and Facebook having agreed to reduce video streaming quality in Europe at the request of the EU. This helps to avoid straining the internet while more people are forced to stay at home.

“Music uniting people across borders highlights our common European spirit and heritage”

Roch Set up a remote flute orchestra with his students to spread solidarity and friendship across Europe Belgium, Houyet

As soon as music schools closed, Roch began looking for solutions to stay in contact with and keep teaching his pupils. At first, he asked them to send recordings of their work so he could provide them with feedback. The students showed so much motivation that Roch came up with the idea to set up a remote flute orchestra that would play Beethoven's Ode to Joy, just like the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra first did. With this project, Roch not only kept the education of his students going, but he also offered them a very human adventure. Seeking to spread friendship and solidarity across borders, this project shows the role of music - and of the arts in general - in uniting the people of Europe during difficult times. Boosting solidarity by reminding Europeans of their common culture shows citizens of all EU countries how much they all have in common. United by heritage, and united in the fight against COVID-19.

“Together, we are creating opportunities for civic action and solidarity”

Les Badass Solidaires Strengthen affected communities by facilitating the exchange of crucial services. Belgium, Brussels

Nine young women from Brussels created the Facebook group 'Solidarité Solidariteit Brussels Bruxelles Coronavirus' to encourage solidarity between everyday citizens and organisations or medical professionals in need. The group acts as a relay between good will and demand: most people want to help, but they don't always know how to do it. Collaboration between members of the group resulted in efficient strategies to help people in need and support professionals on the frontline. Solidarity is not just a good intention anymore thanks to this initiative: volunteers can now easily find where they can be most helpful.

“We work every single day to understand this virus - and learn how to fight it”

Philippe Leads research to better understand - and fight - COVID-19 Belgium, Leuven

Like so many scientists across Europe, Philippe and his colleagues at KU Leuven work to better understand epidemics like COVID-19. Supported by EU funds, epidemiologists like Philippe embody the EU's scientific response to the threat of viruses. In order to fight epidemics like the one we're currently going through, scientific research is and always will be our best answer: understanding is the first step to finding solutions to public health issues. This is what Philippe and his peers are focusing all of their efforts right now.

“It's my duty to keep educating the adults of tomorrow”

Mihaela Works in a coding school for kids, providing lessons online Belgium, Brussels

Mihaela works at Logiscool Montgomery, an institution in Brussels that offers coding lessons to children and teenagers. When the confinement was imposed, the school quickly set up video tutorials and online classes to keep teaching its pupils: digital technologies, robotics and Artificial Intelligence are fields of research of utter importance, as the current crisis has demonstrated. Mihaela and her colleagues see it as their duty to keep educating the adults of tomorrow in these areas that give Europeans the tools to tackle challenges like this pandemic and its consequences. Across Europe, countries, regions and cities are reaching out to help their communities, while the European Union’s solidarity fund is making up to €800 million available to help our countries fight the coronavirus.