Vzw Jong builds bridges for youngsteVzw Jong – building bridges for youngsters with fewer opportunitiesrs with fewer opportunities
Dirk Van Grembergen is a former social worker concerned primarily with homeless young people in Schaerbeek. "I was faced with drug problems and poverty. Everyone saw Schaerbeek as an impoverished region, but I could get along with the young people that I met there. That motivated me to support them and to motivate the group of youngsters with fewer opportunities to stand up.”
Vzw Jong’s mission is to entertain young people and children. "We build bridges," says Van Grembergen. "We attach importance to themes that are central in their lives. We approach these things in a playful way and give the youngsters an exciting learning environment."
And there’s more: "Vzw Jong also helps with other important issues: work, sports, culture and wellness. The young people are not alone. We are a kind of outreach worker who help young people with personal problems and support them finding a job."
Young people from Ghent’s nineteenth-century suburbs – the area around the Brugse Poort – remain a vulnerable group. Vzw Jong helps them. "We are their link to the government," says Van Grembergen. "We identify what is important in the youngsters’ lives and we denounce the abuses. Young people should not be the victims of social exclusion or discrimination."
Van Grembergen was shocked by a recent video in the media. "Recently, a young man was denied entry to a cafe in the Overpoort area (popular night spot) because he was of foreign origin. Our association went to the mayor with the images to face the problem together. A GAS-fine (a fine for violating municipal regulations) for the owners of the cafe would be in order here."
Each year, the association impacts hundreds of additional projects. "We do that on top of our regular work," explains Van Grembergen. Recently, vzw Jong came up with a dental care project. That project was a collaboration with the alderman of Health and Welfare, Resul Tapmaz, the local health centre and Ghent University. "We set up a mobile dental practice where children and young people could get their teeth checked. With a note, they could go to a dentist to get their teeth repaired."
"We don’t want to ‘pamper’ the young people, but during an activity, we always offer them an apple instead of candy."
© 2013 – C.H.I.P.S. StampMedia – Valerie Schreurs, image: Joris Bocken