Last Friday, 1 July 2016, members of Rotterdam Students (RS) indoor football club organised a community event in the so-called ‘problem district’ Rotterdam-IJsselmonde. Together with groups 7 and 8 from Groene Palm primary school, they wanted to do something for the deprived community, where residents have very little interaction with each other.

“They get on so well with the children, you’d think they were training to be teachers,” says Canan Yildirim, teacher of groups 7 and 8 at the Groene Palm. She is obviously delighted with the EUR students from RS indoor football club who joined up with her class. Since the end of April, the indoor footballers and the pupils have been meeting every two weeks to explore how to create more solidarity in the area. To do this, they went into the community and planned a large event on the school playground.

Traditional Dutch games

Partly due to the weather, the turnout wasn’t great – initially mainly parents coming to collect their children. However, once the rain had passed, some curious local residents also dropped by to see what was going on. They saw the children (not your usual country bumpkins) enjoying traditional Dutch games like shuffleboard and bite-the-cake, while further on, homemade cakes were being sold to raise money for charity. “The boys and girls from groups 7 and 8 could choose where they wanted to send the proceeds. They finally decided on refugees – a very noble cause,” explains Michael Ta, RS indoor footballer and employee at Erasmus Pavilion.

Insulated life in Kralingen

If it were up to Oemar van der Woerd (third year bachelor student Health Sciences), ‘his’ indoor football club should do more for deprived city areas in Rotterdam. “As a club, we’d been wanting to do something for society for a while, because as a student, you tend to live a rather insulated life in a district like Kralingen. The MOVE foundation, which works for children in deprived areas in student cities, told us about this project. I thought it was a great idea – I think we should do something like this every year.”

Promotion for the university

Although the closing community party didn’t raise a huge amount for the refugees (around 150 euros), the whole project was ultimately very successful, says RS president Anna Koster (bachelor Sociology). “With a little bit of help, the children organised a great party, which taught them a lot. And not unimportantly: they learned more about the university, which means that it might not be so unattainable for them after all.” Two weeks ago, the primary school children visited EUR, where they were given a football clinic in the sports building and became university students for a day. After the visit, the Turkish girl Aya, one of the brightest children in group 7, was immediately enthusiastic: “The university was very big, full of intelligent people and there was a nice atmosphere. I want to study there to be a brain surgeon.”