• Alice Pons



Monday 11th january is our first day. Our adventures in Rotterdam are starting, except from one point, we are actually in Amsterdam. Working from Alice's room. Transforming it into a small office.

We do a lot of planning, a lot of talking, a lot of emails, a lot of putting up the structure in Google Drive. All the things that are part of it, that are needed to ‘really begin’. We get a soup every day, at the other side of the street – one day the girl from the soup bar gives us an extra soup, it is a leftover.

We are supposed to do what we like to call “fieldwork”, meaning going on location, talking with people, learning new skills. In Rotterdam we follow social workers. We have to adapt slightly our planning to the never ending pandemic, do a bit more online interviews, but in general we can't complain. Social workers don't stop working - social work is an essential work. They just go on. So we also go on.

On the first day we gather our expectations and projections related to being a social worker. We write words on post-its. Words linked to our own imagination: “guidance” “intimacy” “boundary” “comforting VS empowering” “naive” “transformation” ”physical” “rituals”. We also write questions: “ how does it impact your own life?” “How to deal with your judgment?” “Do you have to be self confident to help others?”

Both of us have different experiences linked to this job. Alice has the feeling that where she grew up (the suburbs of Paris) this job was very present around her. She could feel how (when given enough support and care) it literally transformed certain areas, especially through the work of what they call here “ambulante werkers” or youth workers. In some cases of course it was badly associated. There were the social workers who represented the system, employed by the government, the ones who were coming to check you up and who could “destroy” your family. But then there were also the social workers who were closer to the people, in general smaller associations led by people who knew the neighborhood very well. These are the people we will also follow here.

Lisanne is a bit more insecure about this whole topic. She grew up in a really small and ‘safe’ village, the problems that existed were hidden behind the doors. The social workers were not visible, at least not for her. Since her father is a psychologist she does relate to the topic of providing mental help to vulnerable people, and also knows how tired and frustrated a ‘care worker’ can be after a long day of work.

On the second and third day we start with the interviews. Our first interviews are with two social workers from the organisation Moeders van Rotterdam. They accompany pregnant women who are in difficult situations, and stay with them for the first years of raising their child. They help them with practical things, dealing with juridic problems, administration, cleaning, organising. They also help them in creating a connection to the coming baby: a lot of mothers are too stressed to create this connection.

We decide to have a minimum of 2 interviews with 3 of the Moeders (we call the social workers from this organisation de Moeders). The first interview is focused on their job, their relation to it, emotions linked to it, what brought them there etc. The second interview, we call the “care talk” and is focused on the relation they have through their work but also personally to the topic of care.

We first talk with Tessa. Tessa is down to earth, pragmatical, not very sentimental as she defines it herself but passionate about her work. Her mother used to have a cafe and we can't help seeing a connection there. Imagining her mother, the coffee place, the customers and how much being a bartender is also about listening and encountering people from all paths of life.

The second talk is with Imke. Imke is sweet, passionate and invested in what she does. She comes from a family of teachers and along our conversation we can feel the impact it has left on her. She shares with her parents and brother a mission. She said she was young and naive when she started this job, but by doing it she became more critical and learned how to share her opinion more.

Next week, we will really go to Rotterdam (jiij). We are very happy about that as we believe we need to be on location, in the neighborhood where the social workers we follow are working, to understand the place, meet more people and create our own connection.


We start our week with a meeting about marketing. It’s a weird combination of online and offline, but it works. We talk with Jasmina, Stefan, Jordy and Marion (the team of Rotterdams Wijktheater), Charlot (our creative producer), Vincent (our creative pr-person) and Wilma. Wilma works at the bibliotheek nearby and she is also a resident of Ijsselmonde. From our previous stay in the neighborhood we noticed already how important this bibliotheek is, it is a place where a lot of people meet and it has a very nice and welcoming vibe.

We talk about augmented reality, walks through the neighborhood, Mariah Carey being a careworker in a movie, and ways to get in touch with people in this weird time. We also talk about dropping letters in postboxes (the famous MOHA pr method ;) and Wilma will join us for this. Jasmina thinks Wilma is also a good writer so maybe she can add a personal touch to our messages. We made an appointment for care talk with her next week. We are looking forward to getting to know her better.

After the meeting we get some lunch and make a walk through the shopping center at the other side of the square. We love the shopping center, it has a lot of weird stores. Most of them are closed, but the candy shop is open. Candy is an essential good. There is also a store where you can make a mondkapje with a picture of your own mouth - it looks kind of creepy.

We reach out to all the new people that Stefan and Jasmina told us about. It's nice to see how good they know the neighborhood and its bewoners, and how caring they talk about them. Then we have a second interview with Tessa from Moeders van Rotterdam, a care talk. This time Tessa zooms from home, so we can see her plants. She shows how weird one of her plants grew. Tessa shares a lot of interesting stories and thoughts with us. One statement she makes is "the fact that I do social work doesn't make me better than an accountant. I also get money for it." We like this straight forward side of her. We ask her what care smells like, she says: the sea.

We also ask her what kind of music she listens to as a comfort. She shares with us some songs from her Spotify list, she finds it very personal. This is one of the songs:

After this long day we go to our hotel. We had low expectations, because Stefan made a joke about it, but is actually fine.

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