What kind of work do you do? A frequently asked question when you meet someone for the first time. I always find it very difficult to give a short and clear answer. I do so many different things and have so much drive to make Amsterdam a little bit more beautiful every day.
Lately, I have had several conversations with volunteers who want to help us “at the office” as a volunteer. Everyone has their own talent and passion and wants to use that to help vulnerable people in Amsterdam. An UX designer, an organising and management talent, someone who is good at designing websites, administrative giants and many more beautiful people, who are regularly involved.
That office is now mostly working from home, which I think is a big shame because I enjoy the people around me the most so that we can work together. Without the efforts of these “office volunteers”, Serve the City would not be able to do what we do now. So I am very grateful for that.
Together with them, we organize great projects so that all Amsterdammers can do voluntary work in an accessible and flexible way, and thus inspire other Amsterdammers to do something for someone else.
I explain to the new volunteers why I do what I do. We help vulnerable people in Amsterdam who need help. We help organizations that help people. Homeless institutions, elderly institutions, playgrounds where children can play safely. We are socially involved and we take action!
But what we also do, and why I do what I do, is to make the world a little bit more beautiful and to widen the perspective of the volunteer a bit. If you are painting a vulnerable mother’s living room without prejudice (or maybe some), go for a walk with an elderly person who would otherwise never go out, bake a pancake for a homeless person or pick up a small piece of plastic from the street, and when you listen and look at the people around you, then something happens.
If you listen to the story of the homeless person, get to know the vulnerable mother, look around how beautiful Amsterdam is, or hear the life story of an elderly person, it cannot be any other than that something happens in your heart, that you see the world differently, that you are becoming more patient and that you want to keep helping to make the world a bit more beautiful. Simply because it is so easy to do.
In Amsterdam it is so easy to cycle past all the doors where there is suffering behind them, to not see the people who need help. With the projects of Serve the City, I hope that these people become visible, get a name, a face and that while we help we can learn something from others and ourselves.
Because of corona I have rediscovered how fantastic it is to make a difference with many volunteers, and how we can really do a lot for vulnerable Amsterdammers, together with the various labels, Serve the City, Ympact020, Adam Helpt and recently Count Me In. During the lockdown, we worked closely with Present Amsterdam and Burennetwerk. Such beautiful things came from that collaboration when we joined forces so we want to keep doing that!
In 2019 more than 3000 volunteers dedicated themselves to help people in Amsterdam and make this city more beautiful. In 2007, when I started Serve the City with two friends, there were only 250. What growth there has been and how proud I am to be the director of this club. I have therefore recently adjusted my ambition. I want us to be the best when it comes to organizing beautiful and fun volunteer projects and show the impact that has on the vulnerable residents of the city. That’s the job I want to do. And that’s one of the coolest things you can do if you ask me. And I have so many great ideas that I would like to implement. Will you join me?