‘The art of the new life together’

From the ‘Huis van Bourgondië’ to the Masters Home—at the place where not so long ago young theatre makers presented their work to the public, fifteen students and ‘differently abled’ people (called the Masters) are now living together. Getting and giving help is the formula. The residents are enthusiastic. “I’m really happy here.”

The ‘art of the new life together’, that is how Han Zittema describes the concept of the Masters Home residence. “Differently abled people and students form a community in the partially protected residence. They do not do not just live as ships passing in the night, but rather help each other when needed.” During the initial planning phases, the founders wrote a profile of ‘the ideal student’ for the Masters Home. The most important characteristic—being socially engaged.

Those who want to live in the Masters Home are only admitted after a selection interview. Arts and culture student Zeno Meert was one of the lucky ones. “I lived with eight students in a house. Now I have my own studio, in addition to a very nice common room and three washing coins a week”, laughs the 23-year-old Belgian. But that was not the main reason for moving. “The communication in my old house didn’t go very smoothly, and sometimes there were problems. Those also exist here, but they’re always solved. Every day is a fun challenge, and I continue to discover new facets of all of the residents.”

The students in the Masters Home pay the regular rent, which is the same for every resident. In addition, they do a few extra things. Each student takes turns keeping the ‘home telephone’ in their room for a week. In case of a crisis, he or she is the first point of contact. “Sometimes I also help with cooking”, says Zeno. “It's about small things; I like doing it. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve grown as a person. And I see how the Masters are developing.”

This can be affirmed by ‘Master’ Shirley Schellings (24). She moved from her family home to the Masters Home in January. “When I came here, I was very shy. I ignored the people around me. Now I’ve become much more open. I also met my boyfriend here. Maybe we'll be living together in a couple of years, but for now I’m good here. Upstairs I have my own place; downstairs there are always people I can talk with. That's wonderful. And I can always rely on the students. I think it's fantastic here.”

Zeno—a student who is originally French-speaking—also enjoys the former theatre workshop in the heart of the city. “Most students only deal with other students. That’s a limited world. Also, that way I wouldn’t learn Dutch because everyone speaks English. The most important thing I’ve learned is that people who think differently also have a reason for this. The trick is to adapt and to think along with them. In the beginning, I found that difficult. Back then, someone might suddenly become very angry. Now I know that this will also dissipate. By discussing problems, you learn to understand each other and make compromises.”

Soon, a second Masters Home will open in Wyck, with accommodation for five Masters, eight students and eight status holders. “It is important for the residents that they have contact with trustworthy people in a safe environment”, says Han Zittema. “This way, we help them on their way to self-reliance.”


Text: Meyke Houben

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