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Antwerp's Indian traders foster integration

india Updated: Jun 26, 2006 12:16 IST
Highlight Story

The flourishing Indian origin diamond business community in this Belgium port city -- one of the diaspora's most prosperous success stories -- has donated two children's projects in appreciation of their host country.

The Antwerp Indian Association (AIA) here donated a state-of-the-art computer room to a local school and a high-tech movie room to a children's hospital in an effort to foster integration and give something back to the country.

The AIA, at a function on Friday in one of Belgium's leading local Flemish-speaking schools, Onze Lieve Vrowe (OLV) College, donated a computer room.

The event was attended by a multicultural cluster of representatives of different religious faiths, government officials and members and parents from the Indian community.

A sum of euro 5,000 was provided to update and reinstall a computer class room in the primary school in a gesture aimed at promoting more integration in the school with a predominantly local population.

Belet, primary school principal of OLV, told INEP agency: "Integration is a very good thing and we are very happy to have made contacts with the Indian community."

Of the 526 children that study at OLV, 10 per cent are Indians. Many of the 500 Indian families that reside in Antwerp prefer to send their kids to international private schools.

However, this is changing and 12 more children are to join the local Dutch medium school in the next academic year.

"We would like to convince those who consider Belgium a step along the way that their international contacts will not be lost if they put their children in local schools," said Celis Peter, a teacher and IT coordinator for the school.

Antwerp's Jewish community's chief Rabi expressed his appreciation of the Jain community's effort "at a time when Antwerp is a passing a transition period".

Mehul Kothari of the AIA said: "This gesture will show that we are truly Antwerpenaars."

The Commissioner of Education in Antwerp, Voor Hamme, said: "With our international port and diamond trade, we have a community which is very multicultural.

It is very important that different communities in the city show a lot of participation in life of the city and its schools like the Indian community."

The event, which ended with a small poetry recitation and singing performance by the students, was followed by another equally significant token gesture at Antwerp's acclaimed Queen Paula Children's hospital.

There Antwerp's Governor Camille Paulus joined the gathering to launch a high tech movie room donated by the AIA.

"I appreciate the community's initiative and am here to support their good work in creating a movie room for the children who can forget the sad moments," he said.

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