During the summer of 2010, &samhoud announced a competition for the best connection idea. Hundreds of ideas were submitted, ten were shortlisted and voted for online. Prize winners were announced during the Day of Connection on 18 November 2010. What has happened to the prize winners since then? Here’s an update on the Top 2.
First Prize Winner Linda Otterman, Stichting Samen Oplopen (The ‘Walking On Together’ Foundation)
The top prize (€10,000) was awarded to Linda Otterman for her idea to set up a buddy project for families, thus preventing the need for formal social care from already overstretched services and removing the stigma usually attached to this.
Samen Oplopen connects people who lead a balanced life to those who experience life as problematic. For example, many parents struggle to raise their children, manage their finances and also face problems arising from their own childhood, adult past, social status, work etc. These parents may lose trust in their own ability and often don’t have a circle of healthy family members or friends to fall back on. Reliable and committed volunteers with a heart for others build up a friendship with families who could do with a buddy to support them in these matters. By walking on together people better understand and appreciate the difference in backgrounds. Connections are created, both at a practical and a soul level. Both parties dare to get out of their comfort zones. It gives everyone energy and helps to reach targets and thus obtain a more positive attitude to life.
Linda says: “This prize money and the support from &samhoud meant that I could actually start my project! It’s something that I’d been dreaming about for 18 months but until then no-one had wanted to provide financial support. It gave me a tremendous confidence boost and the feeling of ‘Just start and we’ll see what the future brings’.” And that’s exactly what she did.
Thanks to this flying start, now, one year later, already 20 families have found a buddy, many more than initially anticipated. Two families can now already continue without the support of a buddy.
“Thanks to &samhoud’s faith in me, its support and this prize, various foundations and the City of Zeist have committed to provide the funding needed to continue the project for a further three years”, reports Linda. The City of Zeist has integrated the project into its Centre for Youth and Family as a three-year pilot project.
“In terms of future plans, I will focus on continuing to build a sound foundation for the project in the next two years so that the project’s value and impact will be evident to all and the City of Zeist genuinely wants to embrace this project and financially support it. This would confirm the view that this type of accessible support works better than formal care and benefits the local community. And after that…. I sometimes dare to dream that similar projects can be started in other parts of the Netherlands too. But only if I find people who want to put their heart and soul into this,” Linda continues. “But for now my main goal is that the people in Zeist will get better at living together, that the downward spiral families find themselves in will be reversed, that these families feel that there are people who care for them and less isolated in the worries they have.”
Update On The Second Prize Winner Maartje Admiraal, Chance2change Ghana.
Maartje Admiraal won €5,000 for her project ‘Chance2Change Ghana’, which teaches street boys in Kumasi the shoemaking trade as well as many life skills. These boys have left northern Ghana to find a better life in Kumasi, a major trading centre in the south. The aim of the project is that after the training they return to and reconnect with their home area, contribute to the local economy there and also teach others similar trades so that eventually the migration to the south ends. “My dream is that these boys become proud of themselves, self-confident and will make other youngsters enthusiastic to work on their own future in their own environment instead of running away”, Maartje says. &samhoud’s prize money meant that a project house could be rented and a workshop added to it. In August 2011 four boys moved into the home and have been helping to further build up the compound and start their training. Maartje and her team also continue to reach out to the other street children in Kumasi through play and teaching.
Blue Ball Story
Following an ad campaign on Dutch national TV in June 2010, 70,000 people in The Netherlands requested a blue ball of connection. One recipient was Annemarie Sweeris from Deventer who has used the ball as the ‘neighbourhood ball’ in the Bekkumer area. The neighbourhood children play with the ball every day and it stays at a different home every evening. Annemarie and her family have since moved to a different part of Deventer, but the ‘neighbourhood ball’ is still being used in Bekkumer. Here’s a picture of Annemarie’s sons Alexander and Philip with another blue ball of connection which they will use to make friends in their new neighbourhood.
How are you making connections with your blue ball of Connection? We’d love to hear! Please email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.