24 August 2017
Students going the extra mile

Law students employed as neighbourhood mediators

Councillor Jack Gerats awarded the first certificates to 18 new youth neighbourhood mediators. Maastricht is the first city in the Netherlands where students go into neighbourhoods as youth neighbourhood mediators to bring students and local residents closer together. Two of them discuss their motivations.

Law students as neighbourhood mediators

Ignorance
Neighbourhood mediation is part of the Student & Stad project, an initiative of the municipality and Maastricht University, among others. The project aims to improve the relationship between Maastricht residents and students. Therefore, the youth neighbourhood mediation is also affiliated with the Student & Stad project Match, which works to increase the social involvement of students in the city and the surrounding region. Match answers the demand for social services with the offer from the student community. This way, Match hopes to show that the city and its residents can benefit from the presence and qualities of the many students in Maastricht.

Because the approach seems to work, the youth neighbourhood mediators also plan to start working with ‘notorious’ student houses in Brusselsepoort-Oost, Belfort, Heer and Centrum. The idea is to move the students towards a mediation conversation with their neighbours. “It works best if you have this type of conversation when it’s quiet, not when there’s a party going on”, explains Dünya. “The nuisance caused by students is rarely due to unwillingness. Much more often, it’s ignorance. And the students are not always the villains; sometimes pre-conceptions and prejudices play a determining role.”

Roos and Dünya do not regret their decision to become JBBs. Roos: “As a student, you see that a lot of daily life in Maastricht passes you by. I think it’s good to get in touch with local people in this way, too. Neighbourhood mediation expands my social world.”

The project is coordinated by the welfare organisation Trajekt. The group now consists of 30 young people.

text: Meyke Houben
photos: Sacha Ruland