As soon as you leave the university, you can start giving back
Some university students start giving back to society during or right after their study. Minguel Baker is one of them. He is project coordinator at Stichting Move: a foundation that encourages primary-school children from underprivileged neighbourhoods to discover their own talents, and in the process of that do something good for their neighbourhood or society. Move is a part of the Erasmus Sustainability Hub.
Can you explain the goal of the Move foundation?
‘It is a national foundation, every city has it own department. We focus on primary-school children from underprivileged or financially-challenged schools or families. Not every child gets encouraged to discover their talents. This is where we like to help: we start up small projects together with school classes. We also challenge the children to try and impact their environment on a small scale, within their own street or neighbourhood. They can organize a football match for example, or a game night at the local retirement home in order to socialize with the elderly. All the projects have a level of social involvement. Additionally, last year the program Move Your World started, involving teens from VMBO instead of primary schools. Rotterdam is an interesting area, as we have a larger number of VMBO schools, a lot more than other big cities such as Utrecht or Amsterdam. And in Rotterdam 1 out of 4 children grows up in poverty.’
Do all the projects always succeed?
‘Yes, every project does in it's own way. Sometimes the social impact on the community is bigger, sometimes smaller. But on the whole the outcome is very positive. The children do everything: from brainstorming to designing to organising. Each project costs about five months, and we run about six projects each semester. The setup is very bottom-up. Students who volunteer supervise and assist those projects.’
Why do you want to do this?
‘In 2010 I started studying sociology. At the end of my BA, I found I was missing some practical knowledge. I chose an MA at Utrecht University and in my spare time I began a traineeship at Move. This was exactly what I was looking for: a place where I could translate my academic knowledge of sociology into practice.
I grew up with the idea that you should participate in society in a positive way in order to contribute, to help others. My first MA degree, ‘Grootstedelijke vraagstukken en beleid’(‘Big-city questions and policies’) was about the same issues we see at Move: poverty and inequality in big cities, and how to deal with these issues. Now I’m finishing my second MA in Utrecht, which is about youth policy and at-risk behaviour and related issues. Why do young people start smoking or vandalising? Which policy works best to avoid risk behaviour?’
‘We fall under the social branch of ‘climate goals’ because we help organise social projects in Rotterdam. It’s also about awareness and doing something for your city.'
Alumnus Minguel Baker, project coordinator at Move
What is your goal or dream?
‘My mother had a colleague who did a lot for the city, who helped a lot of people in many different ways. 500 people attended his funeral, including the mayor and some secretaries of state. I always have that in mind: how spending your life providing aid and bringing about change means people will remember you. Now I see that it’s sometimes quite difficult to bring good ideas into practice. We have to deal with a lot of bureaucratic red tape, which slows down the process. There is a difference between policy and implementation, it would be nice to build a bridge between these worlds.’
Why is this project a part of the sustainability hub?
‘We fall under the social branch of ‘climate goals’ because we help organise social projects in Rotterdam. It’s also about awareness and doing something for your city. The location at the sustainability hub (on campus Woudestein) is nice. Students with an interest in our program can drop by for information. Everybody is welcome to join the projects. It’s a nice extracurricular activity: you learn how to translate knowledge into practice, how to work with children (which is more difficult than you might think!), and it’s a good addition to your resume. The more students join, the more we can achieve!’