It has just gone 7 pm when the first local residents walk into the CultuurWerkplaats Tarwewijk, a community center in the neighbourhood Tarwewijk. Some medical students are still busy with the last preparations, because in just half an hour, the very first session of the Vitale Tarwewijk project that is organised by GIDS (Medical Students in Society) is about to start here.

GIDS, a student initiative from Erasmus MC, devotes itself to the city of Rotterdam by linking medical students to social projects, both within and outside the medical school. This enables students to make a contribution to their university city and to work on their own development at the same time.

Lifestyle is key

“Vitale Tarwewijk is an initiative that we set up together with the district manager of the Tarwewijk, the local GP and the CultuurWerkplaats. What we are trying to do is create a programme that’s inspired by Vitaal Vechtdal, where lifestyle is really key,” says Thomas Pereira Horta, former board member of GIDS. Vitaal Vechtdal is a comparable project in the Dutch town of Hardenberg.

Medical student Noa Rotte, who will be running tonight’s session, explains that the classes comprise three sessions spread out over six weeks. “The first lesson is mostly about nutrition, the second is focused on exercise and the third is about other lifestyle factors such as sleep and stress. We also keep track of whether the participants are making any progress.”

Preferably no shots

One of the local residents in attendance, Alward Gerworkian, is “in any case interested” in everything about healthy eating and living. “I hope to learn something new. A good lifestyle is always beneficial and maybe these students know more than I do.” Raymond Davelaar is also in the hall and he is clearly motivated: “I’ve come here to see what I can do to improve my lifestyle.  I am a diabetic and I don’t want to have to have injections, I don’t like getting jabbed!”