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Div’Apéro in Ghent: Exclusive and Intimate

When something is going great and getting better, the pressure rises along with the fear of failure. This could have easily applied to our fourth Div’Apéro in Ghent. But, the expansion adventure of the first ENAR Foundation Div’Apéro outside of Brussels worked as a perfect example of how one can go from the lowest of expectations to the best of outcomes. Now the pressure leans on how to keep record of all the eventualities which made it the perfect evening.

Getting Ready

It is mandatory to start this fourth Div’Apéro report with a name: Rita Tedesco. Rita, the ENAR intern who helped us throughout the whole event as well as helped us find our way to the building, has gained a privileged position in this report. The itinerary was indeed rough and we would have ended up in Tournai if Jamaar’s attempts to throw us off had succeeded. But, we realized that the 15:58 train wasn’t ours, and even if we still took the tram in the opposite direction as stipulated, we could get off and amend the situation.
Despite all the setbacks, Simon, Rita and I arrived with enough time to go to the supermarket for some sociological research (it turns out they sell the same type of food in Flanders as they do in Wallonia), and to set up the room for the debate and the networking.

18:00 Showtime!

ENAR staff starts to arrive and also some surprise attendees (since no one had registered, we were surprised and more than happy to welcome them). It’s time to shine. Simon changes his shoes for some fancy and more uncomfortable ones. Pascal is having trouble with his bow tie, but nothing that a Bic can’t fix. Everything is sorted out fast and smoothly. Pascal reminds the audience, “At the ENAR Foundation, we are always on time (or at least we try to be), and we clap a lot.”

18:30 Missing in Action

Networking starts. Guests and ideas are exchanged and connected. The interns gather some chips for the registration desk. Then, I hear, “Where is Jamaar? - Somewhere in the area.” I wonder whether he could have been victim to his own wrong instructions, but I highly doubt it. If the interns have managed to sort it out, so will he. I’m not worried at all.

19:00 Debate

Mr. De Bruyne takes his seat next to Michael and I cannot help noticing that he has an interesting and very countryside outfit for an academic researcher. He also claims to be an activist as he states to the audience, “Activism is a main part of University life and research.”
Our Ghent’Apéro focused on Discrimination and Employment. Several interesting facts were raised during the debate. Pascal De Bruyne began his speech with a description of the ideal city. “We look at cities as nations, as something homogenous”. However, “during the sixties, the urban white middle class started moving to the suburbs as cities welcomed the urban mixture. Housing and employment left vacancies to be taken by migrants with Tunisian, Turkish, Moroccan, Spanish and Italian origins.”

He introduced the audience to the concept of “social mobility”—the phenomenon through which migrants work towards better social positions and living standards. “But social mobility hasn’t worked out for everybody because of racism and discrimination…”

We tackled some approaches to integration which blur the role of immigrants. According to Mr. De Bruyne, we need to influence the policy makers to change the speech, “to make statements about how immigration has saved the city”.

The debate engaged the audience into a very familiar, face-to-face and close atmosphere which Michael helped build. I turn around to check the audience’s attention and then I see Jamaar who has finally arrived! There was no reason to worry after all…

20:00-21:00: Smooth Finale with a Few Surprises

The lack of a tombola didn’t bring down the moods and spirits. Chips kept coming out, or bowls were magically refilled, and the buzz of conversation filled the room non-stop. The debate had ended with an explanation in Dutch about the role of Trade unions. During the final networking phase, Bart Mondelaers, representative of CEOOR, and Bart Haerens, from Kif Kif, shared some ideas about the tools to counteract discrimination either in social media or at the workplace. CEOOR is the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism and works as a governmental institution to assist and guide the victims of discrimination, mainly at their workplace. The Flemish association Kif Kif has recently launched “The Wiper,” an application to track racism on the internet. Despite the reservations of the Commission of Private Life towards this new tool, the success (with respect to the amount of reports) has already become evident.

There are certain places where one should never check the mobile phone: when talking to a friend who has a problem, for instance, or who is just sharing some frivolous chitchat but still is present and next to us. There is another context and situation: the toilet. I didn’t know about this third one and so I checked it fatally only to find Jamaar’s disturbing message: “Don’t worry – I’m very close.” Now I am indeed very worried!

The first Div’Apéro in Ghent comes to an end, and I get a bit emotional since this will be the last one for me as an ENAR Foundation intern. Simon, Rita, Jamaar, Pascal, Anne-Sophie, Juliana and Miriam all gather for a group picture. It’s almost 22:00 and time to go back to Brussels.

During the train trip, some extracurricular plans are brought up. It’s still a mystery whether the ENAR interns’ rock band will ever exist, but these three months at the ENAR Foundation did exist and will stay with me as a beloved memory of a lucky experience for learning, evolving, meeting great professionals, and meeting the best of people.

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