For ESN, the past two weeks were all about social inclusion. There are many different ways in which you can help other people in Utrecht to eventually create a more inclusive society together. One way is to become a buddy of someone in need in Utrecht. There are a lot of different buddy projects with several target groups. In this post we will outline a few and maybe stimulate you to enrich your Erasmus with some volunteer work and become a buddy!
Buddy to buddy
Buddy to Buddy is an organisation that connects newcomers like refugees and inhabitants of Utrecht to each other. In this way, they try to counteract social isolation and loneliness and at the same time, the inhabitants of Utrecht are given the chance to meet their new ‘neighbours’. The project already linked 280 people in Utrecht, and this is about to become even more since their goal is to link 400 inhabitants of Utrecht each year. This lowers the threshold for new encounters and reduces loneliness among newcomers in the city. They organize matchings dinners, workshops and activities. In this way, they all work together to achieve a more inclusive society!
However, buddy-projects in Utrecht are definitely not only focussed on newcomers in the society. Another organization that focusses on helping out people in our community is the Oranje Fonds with its project ‘Maatjes’ (buddies). In this project, they are looking for buddies for vulnerable people in Utrecht. As a buddy-couple, you will undertake activities together that aim to help the participant in any way possible. For example, think about people with a psychiatric background or homeless people, who lost their contacts and feel the need for a new contact. You can do anything you like with your buddy, like sports, going to the cinema or other activities. Another big target group are elderly people. Loneliness among elderly people is a big problem nowadays and as a buddy, you really can make a difference. A weekly visit to chat or play a game can brighten their day. The projects for the elderly are not only focussed on loneliness though, as you can also help them out with doing their groceries, walking their dog or help them with computer problems. As a buddy, you will most likely see the participant once per one or two weeks. In this way you are not only helping the participants in the project but you will acquire special new contacts and above all, a very good feeling and gratitude!
Beweegmaatjes (exercising buddies)
Another project is organized by ‘Sportstad Utrecht’ and is called ‘Beweegmaatjes’, which can be translated as ‘exercising buddies’. As a beweegmaatje, you can help someone to get moving. For example, this can be easily done by hiking together once a month, cycling together or any other activity that involves exercising. Experience of the participants shows that this is not only very nice for the both of you to work out, but you get a lot of satisfaction out of it. Thanks to mainly students and volunteers, the organization of beweegmaatjes is possible!
So if you are on Erasmus in Utrecht and you feel like doing something extra, consider becoming a buddy! You can help the chronically ill, elderly people, refugees and many others in a variety of ways. You will definitely have a great time and most importantly, you will contribute to a more inclusive Utrecht!
The Integration Committee!