The "Zuid-West" neighborhood of the Hague, young people of middle and lower income families are used to not being seen or heard by decision makers on the other side of town. Home to over 160 nationalities, the area also has the unfortunate combination of low income, lack of social cohesion and less job opportunities. . Parents are nervous about the well being of their children on the streets, and proud of their traditions and heritage. Children meanwhile grow up ignored by the outside world, which doesn't seem to value their well being and or think much of their future prospects.
After decades of preconceived notions and disenfranchisement, a new spirit is rising among young people in Zuid-West.
Together with MasterPeace, in an effort to bring groups of young people together to create something for and about their community, Walls of Connection (WoC) were created both indoors and outdoors. WoC are collaborative street art initiatives that use mural creation as a tool for self-expression and social participation. These original works of art serve as a springboard for helping youth be seen and heard, within the community and reaching the higher levels of city management.
The next chapter in the project involved discussions around community well being, beauty, and the environment in which young people live their daily lives. In an effort to recognize the uniqueness and under appreciated value of their shared places, children created postcards of their neighborhoods. These postcards were sent to a wide array of stakeholders, from family, neighbors, as well as government officials. This is part of the ongoing effort to make their voices heard and their experience recognized by both their community and among decision makers who may otherwise not be willing to explore or visit in person.
Engaging young people through art in neighborhoods where residents have been marginalized or neglected addresses the shortfall in political voice, social equity, and networks. The Doughnut identifies these elements as key to a healthy social foundation and civic life for all. Furthermore, taking part in creating a Wall of Connection contributes to the self-esteem of youngsters, discovering new talents. It can furthermore serve as the spark that fuels long needed discussions related to housing, safety and the local environment, all of which further fill out the core of a healthy, sustainable existence.
From here the collaborative work of Act! As a Doughnut continues; through a mix of coaching, discussion, and community engagement activities. The mission is not just to make something beautiful, but to heal a community and empower residents to envision and build their own future together.