Brussels Bites: the story behind the scenes

Dear friends from Brussels,

Quite often, by the time you reach the end of Rue Neuve or Avenue Louise, you might be approached by friendly people with a panda on their t-shirt or a red cross on their cap trying to sell you their cause in just a few minutes. Well, after a successful day of shopping, committing yourself to a direct debit for a charity you know little about might be a pressure you are not willing to take. There must be a better way to do this.

When I heard that Business Administration students from KU Leuven have the assignment to organize charity events to train their management skills, I just found the idea BRILLIANT! The exercise is priceless for the students and very cost effective for the charities which can spend 10% to 15% of their income on fundraising alone.

This story focuses on Brussels Bites, a charitable event developed by an international team of 8 admirable students.

First row from left to right: Daniel, Filbertha, Nick, Arlinda. Second row from left to right: Natalia, Seif, Stella, Mikail.
First row from left to right: Daniel, Filbertha, Nick, Arlinda. Second row from left to right: Natalia, Seif, Stella, Mikail.

What is the strength of an international team? Diversity.

Brussels Bites brought together the efforts of students from 7 countries. Given the multicultural blend of members, they came with the idea of a multi-ethnic lunch in which they will serve food from their countries of origin. I was very impressed by their confessions and their maturity.

Stella Wallace, the CEO in this project, confessed that motivating and overseeing a team of 8 was not an easy task, but that it has given her many beneficial experiences. She comes from the United States and has already travelled and worked in other countries.

I hope to someday lead several successful businesses while continuing to see the world, eat great food, and read long books!

Seif Abdelmagueed, the Project Developer, is Egyptian. He played handball professionally and enjoys playing the guitar and writing lyrics. Seif hopes to pursue a master’s in marketing but is already running an online shopping store for Millennials.

The biggest challenge was finding a suitable provider for the Egyptian cuisine in our event but with determination and support from fellow members I overcame that challenge

Daniel Balici, Meeting Reporter, has had a passion for reading ever since 6th grade when he discovered the unputdownable mysteries of Agatha Christies. Very dedicated, but rather competitive and individualistic, his challenge was working in a team. Daniel is Romanian.

I am oriented towards investment banking, but at some point I would enjoy having a job in the field of sports management (..), more precisely tennis.

Nick Boecks played the role of Marketing manager. He comes from the United States, but his father is Belgian. He considers that this project is one of the best experiences that a BBA student can have.

Working as a group gives you a taste of what an actual workplace atmosphere is like. It shows you how important it is to do your job on time as the rest of the team is counting on you(..) Being able to help a charity to such an extent is an amazing opportunity.

The role of Financial Manager was shared by 2 young women, Natalia and Filibertha.

Natalia Juzgado comes from Spain but studied abroad and has been pushing herself out of her comfort zone since she was 15. Living in Israel might be the explanation for her interest in learning about managing conflicts and diplomacy. In her free time, she enjoys blogging, poetry and playing in an orchestra.

Youth can make great things like this event and should be taken seriously.(..) We are all really aware of the great impact we could create and that’s why we keep it really professional .

Filbertha Kartawaria, the second Financial Manager, admits having learned an important life lesson: raising money is very difficult. She is Indonesian, and her hobbies include traveling, sports, violin and photography.

From my point of view, the biggest challenges that I faced were about the cultural differences (..) and the promotion. Even though I know a lot of Indonesian people here, it is not easy to convince them to buy the ticket.

Arlinda Rama, Risk Analyst, is a mix of 3 nationalities. She is originally from Albania, but part Bulgarian, and she grew up in Greece. Reading is her favourite spare time activity.

Working on your own is rather easy but working in a team requires patience, understanding and cooperation. (..) My teammates were always there to help me overcome any obstacle regarding our project. I could always ask for advice or feedback on my work which helped me improve myself a lot.

As a Sponsorship Manager, Mikail Ozer faced his first challenge in convincing his own mother, who is rather skeptical, to join the fundraising. Mikail is half Turkish and half Belgian. Contributing to this project has raised an identity question for him: which country should he represent?

I usually had problems working in groups since I wasn’t really seen as a Belgian (..) Working with the magnificent “Brussels Bites” group, didn’t really make me feel different from the rest, since we all were from different places with different cultures. I even felt more Belgian than ever in the group.

A diverse lunch can also be a cultural experience

Brussels Bites will take place at the Embassy of Indonesia (Avenue de Tervueren 294) on the 24th of March from 1PM to 4PM.

The multiethnic lunch will represent cuisines of Belgium, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Romania, Egypt, Spain, Greece, Indonesia and the United States. A delicious sweets bar will also be available. The participation fee will include the food, a drink and one raffle ticket. All generated profits will benefit Mercy Ships, a charity that I will let you discover during the event.

As young people in the community, we wanted to facilitate a sociable atmosphere where others can get to know new people, embrace new cultures and experience new things.
designed by Stella Wallace
designed by Stella Wallace

Hopes for the future

I have focused in this article on the students, because I considered this project to be a very effective pedagogical method that is worth sharing and supporting. Nevertheless, the biggest difficulty was finding partners. Different collaborations had to be made: first of all, with the charity, but also with sponsors willing to make a gesture and contribute either with food or with money.

What impressed me the most was how difficult it was to find the charity. Still, once the collaboration was established, students from the following university year could very well use the concept and make a new Brussels Bites, featuring most probably other countries. From a financial, managerial and logistical point of view, the challenge will still be there, so the students’ experience will not be diluted. But most importantly, there is the chance of turning this into a tradition of sharing and finding common ground through eating together.

Brussels is a place of diversity and we hope this event will gather as many generous hearts as possible. We congratulate these students for creating this event and we hope they will show the same entrepreneurial spirit further on in their lives.

Click here to purchase your ticket for Brussels Bites: https://www.weezevent.com/brussels-bites

If you would like to support this event, but you cannot join the lunch, you can contribute financially via the fundraising https://gogetfunding.com/brussels-bites-charitable-food-exchange/