Jan Coninx champions warm Belgium as lawyer and entrepreneur
Asbl Entrepreneurs for a Warm Belgium is committed to giving people equal opportunities to develop through projects in the fields of food, culture and education. The president of the non-profit organisation is a lawyer, we interview him.
Can you introduce non-profit organisation Entrepreneurs for a Warm Belgium?
Mr Jan Coninx: Entrepreneurs for a Warm Belgium was founded in 2019. It is a charity organisation that works with entrepreneurs to give people with fewer opportunities as much as possible equal opportunities.
We started planting trees (or having them planted) in Senegal; we have since planted 1.6 million trees. Because our non-profit organisation focuses on entrepreneurs, this tree-planting project was very interesting for them. Many companies at that time were concerned about their emission standards. We helped the companies calculate how much CO2 they were emitting. To offset those emissions, they then invested in our tree planting campaign.
After the trees came the laptops
Mr Jan Coninx: A second part of our operation came to cruising speed at the time of corona. Children suddenly had to take classes at a distance and then it became clear that there was a great need for laptops for underprivileged families. We then started, in collaboration with Telenet, the HEARTWARE project, a project subsidised by the government.
There came several collection points for used laptops, most of which came (and still come) from companies. A specialised firm completely empties the collected laptops before they are reused and puts new software on them.
We have since distributed more than 4,000 laptops as part of 125 different local projects.
A project on education and nutrition
Mr Jan Coninx: Through the project Bread (box) needed of vzw Enchanté, our non-profit organisation supports 7 schools in Sint-Truiden to ensure that as many underprivileged children as possible get at least 1 full meal a day.
The non-profit organisation Entrepreneurs for a Warm Belgium is also active abroad
For example, we are supporting an education project in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. That is a refugee camp housing more than 200,000 refugees and even teaching via satellite link.
And that's not all...
Mr Jan Coninx: We are currently setting up a large-scale sports day for 4 schools in Hasselt together with Kids4Kids in which we make the young people move in one way or another, together with some BVs who will give them an inspiration in doing so. The proceeds will go entirely back to children and young people from vulnerable situations.
As long as I am physically and mentally healthy, I would like to contribute to society. We should be aware that not everyone is lucky enough to be born healthy in a nest that already has a certain structure. I consider it my duty to do something for a fellow human being.
Is it convenient for the non-profit organisation that you are a lawyer?
Mr Jan Coninx: I think that's the only reason I was brought in because it can't be for my clean eyes and ruddy locks (laughs). Our members contribute from different sectors and with me that is mainly legal work, of course: drafting and reviewing the contracts.
How does your volunteering affect your law practice?
Mr Jan Coninx: I take from it that I am more empathetic towards clients and, on the other hand, volunteering provides me with fascinating contacts that can be interesting for me as a lawyer or for my firm's network.
And conversely, as a lawyer, what do you take away from your volunteer work?
Mr Jan Coninx: Because of my work as a lawyer, I naturally also have a certain outlook on business life and society, the network I have built up in that is then naturally of interest to the NPO, I think.
Do you still commit to other charities?
Mr Jan Coninx: I am also treasurer of the non-profit organisation Stadstriennale beeldende kunst from Limburg. I've been in that vzw for a number of years because I find it very interesting to question things through art and culture. You are not from Limburg, but in Limburg we actually only have a few big cities and they are already very small, so it is interesting to work together in Limburg. For instance, we organise arts festivals around different themes. For example, at www.stadstriennale.be you can still visit, digitally in 3D, our last festival SCREEN IT around the impact of screens.
Even before corona, we had the idea of doing something in 3D about the impact of screens and then people could also visit the exhibition via the screen. And then suddenly corona came along, people could no longer physically visit exhibitions, but they could still follow our exhibition.