By Maurits Latré, volunteer
From the homily, info evenings and door-to-door collections about refugee work, Maurits went on to establish his own social and poverty organisation called ‘t Vlot in the Belgian region of West-Flanders, with which Caritas Belgium works every now and then. As a young retired teacher, Maurits was approached to work in the parish. Previously, he had been an active volunteer for more than 25 years. He is at home in many places and has a heart for people.
“I am a child of simple farmers. I grew up in a small farm with four cows. My father was a milkman in the village during the war. Regularly hungry people came to ask for sandwiches during those war years. And they got them from my mother, with a gentle and generous hand, even though my parents did not have much with six children themselves.”
“I received a warm, Christian education. So yes, I mainly commit myself from my humane compassion and belief. Although I am not the praying type at all, I love action and I always want to be there for those who need it and stand up for the rights that every citizen has.”
Maurits works exclusively with volunteers, who make time every week for his organisation. A dozen highly committed people keep things rolling.
“About twenty years ago, we met with a number of organisations in the region of Diksmuide that worked with disadvantaged people. We noticed that we pursued the same thing separately. And so we established the ‘t Vlot.”
With the same idea, Maurits went to the Public Center for Social Welfare (OCMW) three years ago. “We had a large supply of clothing, but no warehouse or shop. We asked if they could help us to rent something. Not much later our ‘open house’ De Klapstoel in Diksmuide was established, a collaborative project between OCMW and volunteers from ‘t Vlot. It became a meeting place and a shop for children’s and maternity clothes and baby items. Both natives and immigrants, people with poverty experience as well as other neighborhood residents - everyone is welcome.”
“Twenty people come by on every Tuesday afternoon to have a little talk or to get help with difficult paperwork. We regularly see that it’s difficult to receive the social benefits that they’re entitled to. They have all those rights and benefits, but they just don't know how to use them. That is, often, the downside of social benefits. When our governement comes with another set of benefits or corrections, I always wonder how difficult they made it to use them.”
On his 80th birthday, Maurits decided to pass on the torch of the chairmanship of the ‘t Vlot.