11 October 2018 • Gideon Wille
Neighbourhood volunteer Yassine empowers his Schilderswijk
Yassine Bensalami (23), a student of Applied Safety & Security Studies, received a Haags Jeugdlintje award for his volunteer work with a neighbourhood prevention team in Schilderswijk. As team leader, he is not only a driving force in the prevention team, but he also helps youths in his team, for example, if they need to search for work.
“My motivation? Schilderswijk often gets negative coverage in the news. This is often unjustified. As a boy who was born and raised in the neighbourhood, I want to make a positive contribution. I fell into this because I was already active in De Mussen community centre that set up the prevention team. I used to help out with an indoor football project during Ramadan when the community centre opened its doors to young people after sunset. As supervisor, I made sure that everything went well, and then I became involved in the prevention team.”
“The neighbourhood prevention team forms a group on Saturdays and walks around the neighbourhood to facilitate the livability, safety and social cohesion there. We check whether lamp posts are working, whether porches are closed properly or whether there is any waste that could be a fire hazard. We then inform the municipality or the housing association about it. We regularly come across teens in squares, for instance, who are being too noisy. We talk to them about this and let them know that they are free to sit wherever they want, but they must be considerate to the neighbours. They respect us since we come from the neighbourhood.”
Thirty young people
There are around thirty young people in our team, aged between 14 and 20, who come from Moroccan, Turkish, Dutch and Surinamese backgrounds. I was 17 when I started. We walk around with older supervisors who have been working in the neighbourhood for a very long time. There are also young people who we initially had to confront on the streets but then later became members of the prevention team.”
“Now, I’m one of the team leaders. As a team leader, you mark out the routes and divide up the team. It’s important that we have a good image in the neighbourhood. We don’t want to instill any fear. People in the neighbourhood have to know that we’re there for them. Visibility is important. And we also have to be clear that we are unable to do anything about some matters, such as disturbances caused by restaurants and cafes. These things are for the police to sort out.”
“I’m proud that we’re regularly hired as supervision for festivals. There we ensure that everything stays orderly and that everyone keeps their promises. And I’m proud that we’re being recognised by the local residents. Young people used to be seen as troublemakers. Now, local residents see that we can also do good things and contribute cohesiveness to the neighbourhood.”
“Since I’m going to be graduating soon, I have to cut down my work in the neighbourhood prevention team. Some people say I’m crazy that I still want to be a volunteer, as I’m incredibly busy. On weekends, I work as a team leader at an Albert Heijn supermarket. I’m following a dual degree programme, which means that I go to school one day a week and work for four days at the enforcement organisation at the Municipality of The Hague.
Engaging in discussions
“But I think it’s great to do voluntary work and see how young people are developing and growing. If I see that one of them is looking for a part-time job, I will try to help, for instance, with how an application form needs to be filled out. You start talking to kids who you see are straying off the track. I’ve also gone through my own struggles, and I tell them about these and hope they learn something.”
Mayor Krikke presents Yassine Bensalami with young person’s award (Haags Jeugdlintje)