On the Playground of Life
Reported by: Kalina Barneva
Although the sun is shining brightly high up in a cloudless sky, the morning starts out quite cold. This, however, can not diminish the enthusiasm of a volunteer. Sat around a small table, steaming tea in hand is how I find them – a short, well-deserved break after busy morning of refurbishing work on the playground at Speeltuinvereniging Bloemenkwartier.
Jasper is the supervisor on this project. He himself takes care of the maintenance of 8 playgrounds in Noord. Today, he is accompanied by his younger child Bruno, who is, according to Jasper, a master of cleaning up – the two quickly rolled up their sleeves and set out to take care of the overgrown plants at the playground’s fence. Jasper is happy to be able to bring his children along as their family lives nearby and spending time with them is of utmost importance to him. While the duo heads to their new task, I use the time to get to know the volunteers.
Anna, the volunteering cat lady
A bright smile and a big heart for cats – this perfectly describes Anna, one of our newest volunteers! Two years ago, she packed all her stuff and chose picturesque Amsterdam as her new home town. In Poland, where she originally comes from, Anna used to help out in a cat shelter taking care of 15 fluffy cats (yes, you read it right – fifteen cats! Chapeau Anna!). Now living in Amsterdam since a while, Anna started looking for new adventures to make this world a better place and came across Serve the City. Besides her drive to help others in need (they don’t always have to be as fluffy as her former fury friends :), she also saw the opportunity to meet new like-minded people. Her personal motto:
“Be comfortable with not being comfortable”. Becoming a volunteer helped her to push herself out of her comfort zone and becoming familiar with tasks she has never done before (fixing a playground with us? Check!) while having nice chats with lovely fellow-volunteers. Welcome to the team, Anna, we are happy to have you!
Daniele & Shaakira, a volunteering dreamteam
Teamwork makes the dream work! That’s why Shaakira decided to bring her friend Daniele with her when he told her about his New Year’s resolution to make fellow Amsterdammers happy, who are in need. Shaakira’s plan succeeded: volunteering together with a good friend is even double the fun and STC gained a new, enthusiastic volunteer. Yay! “Catching up with friends and doing good together is what creates life-long lasting memories – at the end of the day you fall asleep with a big smile on your face!” We couldn’t have expressed it any better!
Yue, the travelling volunteer Going on city trips while collecting karma points sounds fun, right? Our volunteer Yue knows all about it. When being in isolation during the lock-down end of 2021, she actually came up with the idea of visiting a new city every weekend and combining each trip with a meaningful experience. That’s why she came all her way from Tilburg and decided to help refurbish the playground in ‘het Bloemenkwartier’ in Amsterdam North together with some other volunteers. The best thing about her mission is that she easily meets new people, gets some insider tips from locals which places she really needs to see before heading back home while leaving some significant traces in each city she visits thanks to her engagement as volunteer-for-a-day! PS: If Yue inspired you with her mission and you want to turn into a travelling volunteer, too, go check out our Serve the City partners spread all over the Netherlands over here: https://www.servethecity.nl/
Her advice for those hesitating? “Step out and do anything meaningful. Get some fresh air, go for it!”
And while the lively group slowly starts making their way towards their working tools, I get to meet Stef, the quiet photographer capturing everyone’s smiles. She has been in Amsterdam for only a week but was eager to join a volunteering project.
She wishes to someday volunteer in projects for Bulgaria, her home country, and is excited to have the opportunity to join Serve the City and get to know the Netherlands this way. Like Shaakira, she understands that projects can be intimidating when you’re joining for the first time, which is why she decided to bring her camera along and observe the tasks the volunteers are doing. But she remarks that:
“It’s easier when you approach people, not wait to be approached, as it will make you feel more motivated to help out.”
Our conversation ends with Jasper heading towards the group to resume the main work for the day, Bruno walking beside him, ready to join the lively group of volunteers. As the morning turns into a cold afternoon, the work continues under the sounds of laughter and jokes. The parents with children helping to gather the leaves in the background, the wheelbarrows being pushed from one end of the playground to the other, the small encouragements and excited exclamations from a successfully finished task !
These small moments make the greatest impact in the heart of every volunteer.