Tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Nomie, I’m a single mother, I’m 23 and have a son, who is 4. I do have an education as a zoo keeper. I was in a violent relationship with the father of my son. At one point I just had to pick up my kid and leave to a crisis intervention centre for women.
So how did you get involved in the Werkt! Project?
My coach in this crises intervention centre did hear from friends about the project. She thought it could be something for me. So we went over to visit in November 2016. I liked the project a lot but at that moment I was living far outside Rotterdam and I had to restart mine and my son’s life. In February 2017 I had things sorted out, I moved to an institute were I would get guidance and coaching in Rotterdam and I did start to work at Werkt!
From the start the whole atmosphere was very welcoming by Peter and the other youngsters who were already working there. We know we all have our backgrounds and things to work on, but when we are there, we are there to work, earn money and we are having a lot of fun.
The good thing about Werkt! is, that it is a job and you get paid for it. That did not only help me to pay off old debts but it is also important for me since it shows my son that mama is working for a living and pays the bills for the two of us.
What was you first impression of Peter?
He is a nice and kind man. He is totally enthusiastic about the work we do. He even can be very happy when we successfully repair a flat tire. Of course, this is reflecting on the group in a very positive way.
You always can talk to him, on the spot, no appointment required. Things are not going to be solved on the spot but this talking helped me a lot.
Is your relation with Peter different than your relation with other professionals?
Peter is supporting me in handling things myself. He is not taking over. Peter is my boss and he really is. He is like: “ yes it is cold outside, we had a shitty evening last night and life is full of problems……. but now we are going to repair bikes!”
Peter helped me not to be afraid of men any more and I must say my direct male colleagues also played a very positive role in this.
What did participating in this project change for you?
The most important thing is that I was given the chance to find out what I can do, to find out in what I’m good.
What is your role within the project?
I’m the one who tells colleagues to keep on breathing and lose their anger. I know where all the equipment is located and where the spare parts are. By that I do offer my colleagues structure, which helps them to function well.
If you had to sum up what this project and your relation with Peter meant to you?
It created an environment where I could blow off some steam. This environment is save, so you don’t feel threatened if you have a bad day and need to get rid of things. Peter is there all the time. If you are there early, he is already there and he is normally the last one to go home.
What about the future?
May 2017 was pitch black for me. The authorities took away my son and placed him with foster parents. I know that my son needs extra care. I do know that my former relationship and the violence, which did come with it, had a big influence on him growing up. But I did take care of this. I arranged for him to have a place in a medical kindergarten. So I really don’t agree to this and miss him.
I was in a court where the judge told me that he thinks I should have him back but Youth Care told me “your son will not grow up with you but with foster parents and in institutes”.
So my main priority is to get my son back and believe me I will put up a fight.
For the rest, I got on the priority list for having my own house. I want to start with an education called Coaching of specific target groups and I need a job, so I hope that I can stay at Werkt! until I start my education.
I did reconnect with my parents and organised a group of friends who can support me when I get my son back. To be honest, to have Jack back is at the moment my main priority.
by Marc Boes (2018)
Marc Boes started his career as a youth worker in 1984 and is today managing director of Stichting JONG and poywe.
Photo “Boy repairing bike”: © Jorde Steenbeek, other © Marc Boes