Movement For Improvement



Our second day in Belgium

The second day in Belgium started in the morning, after breakfast in the company of a few De Met students and their teachers. In their company, we went on a bicycle tour of the city.
The first stop was at a youth center in Leuven, mijnLeuven, where there was a short presentation about the place and we could ask questions. The space was very nicely arranged, with comfortable spaces, work tables and small offices, perfect for studying before exams, but also for planning various events. Their yard is very much like a park and we were told that the young people can use the space to organize fairs, concerts and various performances. One thing that is very different from our youth centers is that absolutely anyone can come up with initiatives and receive support from this group. Also, city halls in Belgium include their young people in the decision making process, when the effect of these decisions could affect them too, and these young people come from groups just like the one presented to us today. We were very impressed with how these things work in their system and how much the young people are involved in the life of their city. One of the projects that caught our attention the most was a survey containing several questions about the city and answered by all the young people of Leuven. These answers have then been turned into statistics and it is clear that people want to reach 100% in terms of well-being in their city, therefore the answers will be handed over to the Leuven City Hall.
Next, we were shown several parks and green spaces throughout the city, where we were told that some of the students are allowed to come even during breaks to relax, but also the SLAC building, an arts school, where young people can do things like take drama classes or organize exhibitions of their own artwork. The space was open and very large, perfect for facilitating these activities. Another place similar to this was The Garage, a space that young people can use for music rehearsals, as an art studio or simply as a place to study.
Afterwards, we visited a makerspace called Maaklerpleek, located in what used to be a slum, but that has been renovated and transformed into a place with modern housing. This turned out to be an absolutely fascinating space. Each room was filled with repair equipment, microscopes, a digitally controlled laser and lots of the like. There, we took part in a tour of the place, during which we learned that there are actually several organizations there that offer repair services, including for clothes and appliances. This encourages people to stop buying so many new things, when it would actually be more sustainable to repair the ones they already have. We also learned about a very interesting project in which the people from Maaklerpleek organize kayak trips on the waters of Leuven and collect the plastic that ends up there, in order to reuse it later.
Our last stop before lunch was at Toja, an organization that offers free therapy sessions for young people. Their space is very nicely arranged, there are more than 20 professional therapists offering their services there and each one has their own style of doing therapy. Children and young people can come to appointments on their own or accompanied by anyone they trust, but parental consent is not required for them to take part in therapy sessions.
Once the presentation of this place was over, we set off on our bikes again, this time to have lunch. Our group was already feeling a little tired, since in a very short period of time, we managed to see a lot of things and meet a lot of people.
During the second part of the day we went to visit the public library of Leuven, a huge building that houses not only books, but also a wide selection of movies and music, and then we returned to Maakleerpleek. There, we took part in an interactive recycling workshop, where we sorted different materials and were given explanations about how we can recognize the different types of plastic and how they are reused in Belgium. The second part of the workshop was also practical, meaning we saw how they reuse plastic, specifically plastic caps from bottles: they are shredded, melted, pressed and then used to create different objects, using the digital laser. We all had a great time doing this and in the end we each left with a personalized key ring made from recycled plastic.
At the end of this last activity, we said goodbye to all the students, teachers and people who accompanied us during these two days. We are truly grateful to them for all the effort they put into creating such a diverse and interactive program for us!
In today’s community circle we discussed all the things we saw and what we could perhaps implement in our city and in Romania.
Naturally, each of us was touched by a different moment, by a different experience, but in the end we all agreed that the passion with which these people live their lives and the energy they put into bringing something good to their community, this is the key to change. We’ve met incredible people here, people who shared to us their ideas and a bit of their wisdom. They inspired us and we hope to carry their ideas as far as possible, through our initiative.