Here at Levi Strauss & Co. Europe, we have spent the past year focusing our giving-back efforts toward refugees in need. We are building authentic connections to our community and supporting local organizations who are working to help refugees settle here.
We are approaching these efforts in three key ways: through regional philanthropic grants, product donations and employee volunteerism. Recently, we’ve started working with a new local partner, the Kraainem Football Club, to support their initiative assisting refugees’ integration through sport.
The football club is located just a few kilometers away from our European Headquarters outside of Brussels. They are driving a refugee pilot project with the support of the European Commission, the Union of European Football Associations, the King Baudouin Foundation and two private companies, including LS&Co. The program serves teenage boys – who arrived as unaccompanied minors in Belgium – from three neighboring refugee centers.
Since 2015, the club has provided French classes and football programs to roughly 1,000 young refugees, ages 15 to 18 years old. The idea behind this project is to help integrate kids moving to Belgium from war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Syria by providing them a weekly French class and a football class with Belgian kids of the same age in an effort to unite them around a shared passion of the sport. They also share a dinner together.
“We are an extremely diverse club and have the multicultural identity to realize a project like this,” said Benjamin Renauld, a coach of one of the Kraainem club’s youth teams and the head of the refugee program. “We’re not only a football club; we have a social role in society.”
LS&Co. is proud to support this program, the first of its kind in Belgium, as a way of helping refugees rebuild their lives. Through an LS&Co. grant, we were able to fund the construction of a new classroom at the club where our employees will be teaching French lessons to teenagers who have resettled in Belgium. And earlier this summer, we fielded a team of employees to play in a football tournament against the club’s players and partners.
Next season, which begins in the fall, the club will be working to diversify and expand their program to include professional and computer skills training as well as Belgian cultural education for young refugees. We’re excited to build on our partnership with the club, which taps directly into our own passion around sport and giving back.