A little while ago Brussels co-working space Transforma Bxl hosted a so-called hackathon for refugees: a kind of research and brainstorming event aiming at finding ideas to improve the lives of refugees in Belgium and facilitate their integration. The winning project, “Pop-up Factory”, wants to shine a light on their manual skills and help them connect with locals by inviting them to arts & crafts workshops and organise exhibitions showcasing and selling the pieces they create. Now the ambitious and heartfelt project held its very first edition at Brussels’ Micro Marché, and we passed by and had a look.
Writer John Hyland
“We want to leverage manual skills that some refugees might have. Sewing, craftsmanship, carpentry are typical examples of manual expertise that we’d like to promote. So many of them just sit around waiting for their papers for months, and we want to help them fight the boredom”, says Marine Visart, graphic designer and one of the creative minds behind the project.
The Pop-up factory, run by a bunch of young creatives, relies completely on good will. Micro Marché let them use their premises for free, materials were donated, and Charlie from Whittuck Design volunteered his expertise and tools to run a workshop creating children’s furniture and birdhouses.
The participants came from the reception center Petit Chateau, just around the corner from the venue. “It’s awful to be in limbo and have nothing to do. All we do is wait”, says a man from Iraq, adding: “I try to keep myself busy with reading and playing football, but it gets boring. I’m very happy to be able to be here today.”
Those waiting for asylum status aren’t legally allowed to work, so unfortunately any money from the sale of their products can’t be given directly to them. Instead, the plan is to use any revenue generated to help the refugee centres, so that the whole community can benefit in the end.
Pop-up Factory, Quai à la Houille 9, 1000 Brussels