Paul Morris looks Les Petit Riens, at a Belgian charity that has a very high profile on the streets and in the shops.
The ASBL Les Petits Rien (The Small Things) is a social enterprise whose mission is to support people in difficulty so that they gain autonomy in a sustainable manner.
For the beginnings, you have to go back to Brussels in the 1930s, when Father Edouard Froidure, a young parish priest, created playgrounds for disadvantaged children. In the same vein, he organized a collection of clothes and furniture to meet the demands of the families of various Brussels neighbourhoods. Les Petits Riens was born and, very quickly, furniture and clothes accumulated in the premises of the Rue aux Laines and Rue de l’Albanie. The success was remarkable.
After more than 75 years of change and modernization, the association remains faithful to Father Froidure’s idea. He was one of the spearheads of the ‘social economy’, and this was long before we had a name for the concept. The association is proud to carry this legacy, while demonstrating inventiveness to meet new economic and social challenges imposed by poverty and exclusion today.
The Les Petits Rien is just one of many initiatives of Abbé Froidure. Today, thirty associations are grouped in the Federation Abbé Froidure. Most of them are dedicated to fostering children in difficulty.
Their second-hand shops are present throughout the country and are open to all. Some stores specialize in clothes that combine style and a low price. In addition to their clothes, some stores offer all kinds of household items. They are an Ali Baba’s cave, where you can hunt around to find the living room, toaster, bicycle or teaspoon of your dreams – many people go there for the sheer pleasure of bargain-hunting.
By buying, you support the ASBL’s social projects, and your purchase is also environmentally friendly: bgiving a second life to an object, you put a brake on waste and overproduction. In Ixelles, at the headquarters of the association, the biggest and best-known of the stores attracts an average of 600 customers a day. You’ll find furniture, household items, flea market items, books, clothing, bicycles, large and small appliances. Beside this store, the Retro Paradise store offers a selection of vintage clothing specially selected for their quality. Also close by, this Belgian charity’s Baby Paradise offers everything for childhood at low prices.