Starting the New Year off with Kindness

Written by Beverlianne Green

My name is Beverlianne, and I recently moved from Alaska to Maastricht for a Master’s degree in Contemporary Art and Social Justice. When coming to Maastricht, I knew I wanted to get involved with the community, and make sure that my experience was not exclusive to the university environment. Therefore, Serve the City seemed like the perfect organization to get involved in. The flexibility of volunteer days, the variety of projects, and the diversity of fellow volunteers meant that I could see new parts of the city, and meet people I never would have had the opportunity to otherwise. This January I got to be a project leader for my first Big Volunteer Day. Here’s how it went.

Serve the City’s Big Volunteer Day started early on a brisk January morning. Volunteers gathered for their projects, some came to garden at Kinderboerderij de Heeg, while a group joined by Maastricht University’s UNSA worked at Groene Poort Oost. The volunteers got their hands dirty moving wood chips, building stairs, and cleaning animal enclosures.

After hours of hard work, volunteers met at the Social Hub for lunch while the afternoon crew prepared for their tasks. The room was filled with nearly 60 volunteers, and the morning and afternoon crew got to swap stories before the afternoon crew left for their projects.

Two groups split the afternoon at the COA Refugee Center and another at Stichting Radar Woonvorm Scharn. Volunteers played carnival games and painted faces at the refugee center while in the room next door, the women of the Center relaxed and enjoyed beauty treatments. Kids screamed with excitement as they had butterflies and the flags of their home countries painted on their cheeks, while the women enjoyed hand massages and face masks. At Stichting Radar woonvorm Scharn volunteers made appelflappen and decorated masks for the upcoming carnival celebrations.

I had the privilege to be the project leader at the beauty salon. It was a slow start, and the women slowly trickled into the room. Some came only to pop their heads in, while others joined at the requests of their friends. As the volunteers painted nails and braided hair, connections between the refugee women and themselves began to form. The women’s faces brightened as they saw their finished makeup. The volunteers compassionately attended to every woman, meticulously addressing particulars, allowing room for conversation, and nurturing a supportive and empathetic atmosphere. I applied a face mask treatment to a young lady, no more than 14. I carefully cleansed her face with rosewater and we discussed how she liked Maastricht. She chose the same face mask as her mother, and after I finished applying them, they sat together whispering. By this time, little girls had snuck into the room to watch their mother’s nails being painted. The atmosphere quickly shifted to be more vibrant. At the end of our time, we still had people coming in and children begging for their hair to be done and asking when we would return. The beauty salon was a special way to treat the women of the Refugee Center with care and allowed the space for them to prioritize themselves.

Some volunteers joined us today because they were new to Maastricht and wanted to integrate into the community, while others were students getting involved through their university clubs. A few were born and raised in Maastricht, and through that lineage felt compelled to continue giving back to the community that raised them.

By the end of the day, our volunteers had made a significant difference in enhancing the experiences of individuals in Maastricht and serving their community.

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