Making Changez: Recognising Resilience of Moroccan Youth in the Netherlands

By Veerle Fanoy

On November 8, ‘Who’s In Town’ invites to a lecture about “Recognising resilience of Moroccan youth in the Netherlands: from their perspectives”. The stage will be given to young Moroccans and mentors who are part of ‘Changemakerz’, a foundation that provides training and coaching for an underprivileged youth.

Mohammed Jâouna, a familiar face from the reception desk at  AUC, founded the organisation in 2016, together with other professionals mentors. He and further members involved in the foundation will speak at the lecture. For twelve years Jâouna worked in different secondary schools and in higher education in Amsterdam. The idea of founding Changemakerz was born out of his dissatisfaction with the structure of the Dutch education system. “Young people have needs that the Dutch education system does not fulfil, so I wanted to create a solution,” said Jâouna. His frustration was rooted in the inability of schools to adapt to educational needs, and the sole focus on performance. Changemakerz provides the opportunity to develop interests and talents for people between 15 and the late 30s, who have few economic resources available. “Some of our youngsters have photography skills, or like film and editing. A lot of them are into sports, so these are the skills we’re mostly connecting our programs to,” Jâouna said.

Initiatives by Changemakerz entail programs such as the Urban Safari project, which encourages the exchange between citizens of different cities. The program consisted of several activities that were based on the youngsters’ interests. “The nice thing about  this project is that they feel special. [The media] are always negative about these youngsters, but now they have something unique and interesting,” states Jâouna. Participating in these projects enables these youngsters to show and improve their talents. The focus of the Urban Safari project was on sports, by incorporating workouts and football matches into the program.

Currently the organisation is struggling to realise new projects due to limited funding. This makes the work voluntary, which puts restraints on the full commitment of coaches and mentors to the programs. “For this reason, it’s a challenge to create bigger and greater projects. Yet there are a lot of volunteers, professionals, and students from AUC involved who really believe in this concept, and work with a lot of passion.

Domiziana Turcatti, a third-year Social Science major, who has been conducting independent research on resilience of the Moroccan youth in Amsterdam, is part of the team of speakers. Under the supervision of Dr. Martha Montero-Sieburth, an AUC lecturer and convenor of the event, she has made the research part of her internship. Turcatti defines resilience as the ability to “thrive despite the odds.” Dutch academic and governmental literature tends to depict Moroccan youth in a negative manner. “They are portrayed as low-educated, badly positioned in the labour market, not identifying with the Netherlands and not sharing cultural values,” explains Turcatti. Montero-Sieburth, who will also speak at the event, adds that “even the literature that reports on successful achievements of Moroccans does so in comparison to Dutch nationals and in apologetic ways.” According to Montero-Sieburth and Turcatti, this makes it difficult for the Moroccan youth in the Netherlands to distance themselves from negative associations. The Who’s In Town lecture highlights the aim of these young people and their mentors to create opportunities for themselves despite prevailing prejudices and prove their resilience.

“AUC students and our youngsters [live in] two very different worlds,” says Jâouna. This event offers an opportunity for them to meet. By creating understanding for their stories, Jâouna hopes to achieve a feeling of inclusiveness. “The event is a tool to bring people together and let them talk to each other,” Jâouna concludes.

Changemakerz offers internships and community projects for AUC students: https://www.facebook.com/teamchangemakerz/

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