The ‘white brigade’ can help you print or scan documents, get things ready in a lecture hall or assist during events, for example. They also issue passes and drops to staff from their office on the sixth floor. “We can do anything.”

But there are some days when they don’t have that many jobs. The stewards feel that the fact that they receive few requests for help is probably because staff don’t know that they exist and what support they can provide.

Requests can be done at the steward office on the sixth floor. Image credit: Lana van der Meer

Jobs market

Since spring 2018, the stewards have been working in the law faculty, led by Reini van de Sandt. “We started with two stewards, and another two joined us this year,” she says. The support task of the stewards was created in compliance with the Participation Act.

Dean van der Duin was one of the two stewards who started last year: “Pieter-Bas and I came here via a jobs market organised by the UWV. I love the work here, and I’ve already been able to develop myself in a short space of time.” The other two stewards were put forward by the municipality (which is responsible for implementing the Participation Act).

Favourite workplace

The stewards must be able to turn their hand to anything, but their jobs are usually geared to their qualities and personal interests. Pieter-Bas Graafland sits at the entrance to the ground floor. He’s been working for nearly a year in the Sanders Building too. He previously studied to be a receptionist, so the desk is his favourite workplace.

Three days a week, from 8.45 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., he’ll be here to help people or tell them where to go. “Sometimes people just want a chat, and I’m happy to oblige,” he says. On the sixth floor, where he first manned the reception, it took him more time to move around in his wheelchair from the computers to the desk, and that wasn’t convenient. He doesn’t have that problem downstairs.

Pieter-Bas Graafland at his favorite workplace at the entrance. Image credit: Lana van der Meer

Stay busy

On a busy day, around twenty people will come to the desk to ask something, on a quiet day five. Pieter-Bas records what and when he’s asked something so that it can be evaluated later. Usually he’s asked where certain rooms or locations are, or where the lift is (right behind the desk). Reini: “The steward’s desk downstairs is a pilot that we’ve been running for a month. If it works, we may make it permanent.”

If there are enough jobs, everyone’s busy for a couple of hours, but sometimes it gets more quiet. “We don’t have a television or anything, so we just chat to each other or go for a walk over the campus. We’d obviously like to have more to do,” says Dean.

Not cleaners

“We can’t be used as cleaners, by the way. We can note down where or what needs cleaning, but we don’t do it ourselves.” Pieter-Bas emphasises: “I obviously can’t get down on my knees to scrub the floor.” The stewards can be contacted by e-mail [email protected], but you can also talk to them when you see them. “We wear a white uniform, so you can recognise us by that.”