Beans and Butterflies

Butterfly on bean foliage, RSJ

As my burnout recovery got going, I wanted to contribute to something meaningful and get myself out of my internally-focused ruminating. That’s when I pushed open the door of Haricot Magique and offered my services to Rachida, the energetic fireball who has been running the Baby Cafe for the last three years.

She listened to my story, accepted my offer to help and integrated me into the team of volunteers who run the cafe, offer workshops to parents and children and support one another through life as a parent with a backdrop of the socially-focused non-profit sector in Brussels.

I spent over 18 months within the haricot magique team, pairing up with others during cafe shifts, sharing stories during mothers’ circles, sorting through stock and receiving donations brought in by local families. We took part in a family brocante, weathered the covid storm as best we could and celebrated when physical team building activities could take place once again. Long sessions were spent discussing fundraising options, and I put my limited experience to work to contribute to funding applications and outline future ambitions.

When the opportunity came to share space in the same building as Haricot Magique, as part of a Ressourcerie Parentale, it was clear that this would be Madame Papillon’s first office space. The cafe would form the backdrop to Madame Papillon’s launch as well as providing the space for the first discussion groups and creative workshops.

All good things, it is said, must come to an end. SeeU, the project space that has housed Haricot Magique and Madame Papillon, is getting demolished and redeveloped. The Baby Cafe is entering its final week of activity this week and will go out with a bang – ending with a family party on Sunday 27th March 2022.

The legacy of Haricot Magique will rest with the families who found comfort in a space fully adapted to their needs. The single mothers who provided the cafe cakes will have to supply elsewhere. The women who offered workshops will need to bring their music and books and dance to other spaces. The families will have one fewer place to sit and breathe, safe in the knowledge their children are secure and entertained.

Finding your place in a community and offering your services to others as well as finding strength through others’ support are fundamental elements of Madame Papillon. The solidarity shown among the volunteers and parents involved in the cafe is an inspiration. The lack of support from the city’s infrastructure is a huge disappointment, and a reason to pause and acknowledge the risk associated with launching social projects without structural support in place.

Haricot Magique’s adventure may be closing a chapter at the end of this week, but this butterfly will never forget the lessons of the magic bean.

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