Sept ZINE magazine 2013

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Serve the City Amsterdam Interview with Brigitte Makkinje coordinator Serve the City Amsterdam

What is Serve the City Amsterdam?

A movement of volunteers serving Amsterdam in practical ways and inspiring people to be givers in this world. How did it start?

Serve the City started in Brussels in 2005 as a safe and easy way of enabling volunteers to help people in need. I volunteered to help in Rotterdam in 2006 and later in 2007 I helped set up Serve the City Amsterdam. We started with a fourday festival of projects and music: 250 helped in 40 projects. I thought the Netherlands had a really good welfare system. So why Serve the City?

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The welfare system merely ensures that those at the margins of society are kept alive. Yet unfortunately these people often experience little warmth and affection, as our modern welfare system is more focused on cost-effectiveness than providing a listening ear. Serve the City makes a difference by adding a bit of love to the lives of those we help. What is the biggest social problem in Amsterdam?

For the people we help, it is definitely loneliness. For potential volunteers it is overcoming indifference. You don’t see many needy people on the streets of

Amsterdam; they are behind closed doors. That makes our lives ‘easy’ as then we are not confronted by their needs. Serve the City’s website states: “If you can’t serve 100 people, serve just one.” Is that drop in the ocean worthwhile?

What matters is that everyone we help feels loved. That could be the drug addict whose home we cleared up and renovated. He has now been clean for two years and we still have contact with him. Or an individual with a learning disability and a mental age of 8 who now enthusiastically welcomes volunteers on our project days.