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"We are a student association with a goal of informing our fellow students and engaging around important ecological and social topics."

Collecting clothes for the homeless, creating climate consciousness and a number of other activities. The volunteer students of S.E.A. (Social Ecological Activists) are true VUB heroes. At least that is the opinion of our colleague at the Information Hub, Steph Feremans, who answered the call of rector Caroline Pauwels to the VUB community to nominate a personal VUB hero. An interview with their chairman Jonathan Bertholet.



Who are the Social Ecological Activists?

“We are a student association with a goal of informing our fellow students and engaging around important ecological and social topics. We were founded as a student association three years ago and so we are relatively young. The motivation behind our foundation was that, outside of the politically oriented groups and associations, there wasn’t really anything for students who are interested in social and ecological spheres. In the meantime we have grown significantly, to about ten to fifteen members on the core board and about thirty student members in total.”


What do you guys do? Why?

“We strive to do as much as possible, because there is definitely no shortage of subjects where things could go a bit better.

The climate, which doesn’t always get enough attention, is definitely something that appeals to all of us at S.E.A. The majority of the population is convinced we need to treat our environment better by this point in time. But doing things themselves, unfortunately, is often a bridge too far. Our efforts are aimed at showing people that being proactive not only does not take much effort, but can be fun at the same time! In that context we organise lectures, movie nights, our annual big veggie night and hopefully also a fun debate later this year. We encourage our members to think of new ideas around activities or actions that we can organise. This Thursday 11.11.11 will hold a lecture on climate refugees, which we are promoting heavily now.

"Over the past two months we’ve been able to help numerous homeless people through the cold winter in Brussels a bit"

We also focus on social matters, e.g. poverty, for which we just finished up our clothes drive. Through Facebook and VUB channels, we asked as many students as possible to donate their unused clothes. We then distributed them among the homeless population of Brussels. I am incredibly happy to be able to announce it was a huge success. Over the past two months we’ve been able to help numerous homeless people through the cold winter in Brussels a bit.


What are you trying to accomplish?

“We try our best to be active in different ways. We like to push VUB in the right direction somewhat, and when needed, we are definitely ready to help organise ecological actions! Recently we had a conversation with the head of planning and budget Mr Stroobants and the environmental coordinator Ms Wouters about ‘Divestment’, aka removing certain investments from VUB’s stock portfolio in organisations whose main activities are related to fossil fuels, weapon trade, or other controversial topics. We are obviously pleased that VUB is more than open to this.


Informing and engaging our fellow students on social and ecological topics is something we try to do in a positive way - by not only focusing on problems, but also on their solutions, because positive change requires a positive outlook on the future. We also believe that our student years are formative for the rest of our lives and that we can have an positive social and ecological impact on the world through the students we reach.”


Do you have a message for the VUB community?

“The decisions that we take today, as a community, are extremely important for the future of our society and environment. Everyone is always welcome to come give us a hand. We meet every week to discuss ideas and organise activities. Do not hesitate to send us a message on our Facebook page to attend such a meeting.”


Jonathan Bertholet (picture on the right), voorzitter S.E.A.
As a member of S.E.A. I am passionate about always coming up with fun initiatives, and then implementing them. In my daily live, I try to encourage those around me to make small changes in their own lives. Changing the world starts with small steps, and I like to pass that on to others.
Since in the end we all work as volunteers for an ideological purpose, it is of the utmost importance to keep that flame burning, so that as members we continue to believe that we can make a difference. So the playful side of things is also important, that is why for instance we organise a cantus on March 22nd and the S.E.A. Weekend.