Last week I had the pleasure to spend some time with an inspiring leading social entrepreneur, ‘future architect’ and initiator of various national and international campaigns and movements — Ilco van der Linde. WeR1 Connection and Heart voor de stad, the initiative he founded, recently became partners.
Please read carefully the following phrases:
“Umntu ngumntu ngabantu.”
“Munhu munhu nekuda kwevanhu.”
“Kali kokha nkanyama, tili awiri ntiwanthu.”
Do they sound incomprehensible to you? They do to me as well. Sometimes we don’t understand things at a first glance. However, we should still give those things a chance. Even though they are beyond our comprehension, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of words. In the Bantu languages, these phrases depict the ubuntu philosophy.
Together with the explanation of why we shouldn’t get back to “normal” once the virus outbreak finished, these are some of the questions that Ilco will be answering to:
What is ubuntu exactly? How is Mandela house in Amsterdam celebrating this philosophy? Why is it important, now more than ever, to spread the word about ubuntu?
WeR1: We talked about how important it is to take care of each other, the community, and what we have as a collective. That can be considered the basic of the ubuntu philosophy, right?
Ilco: “Yes, Nelson Mandela was the big promotor of the ubuntu philosophy. It means that you exist because of the other. Ten years ago, the major of Amsterdam asked everyone to come up with ideas for the former harbor master’s house on the Sixhaven, on the IJ in Amsterdam Noord. Out of hundreds of projects, the jury elected my plan to start the Mandela house to honor and promote the ubuntu philosophy. The result is that now we are sitting in the sun and doing positive things!”
“Ubuntu – the togetherness. You exist because of the other.”
WeR1: The Mandela house seems to have a lot of purposes. It’s a place where you can get married, a place where you can talk, a place where you can spend a romantic night, it’s about many different activities.
Ilco: “Yes, but in the end, it has one main goal, which is ubuntu — the togetherness. Whether you are together because you are married, celebrate life, develop social or art initiatives, or just enjoy a nice local beer, it all comes from the philosophy — that you exist because of the other. So, it matters what you do. It matters! It’s not all about you only — it can be important for someone else as well.”
WeR1: During this crisis, people are struggling with different issues. Some that are working from home are having problems with productivity. There is the general feeling of anxiousness. One of the main concerns are the children: parents are preoccupied on how this is going to impact their mental health. But, there are also many other concerns. Is there some particular issue that is close to your heart and you want to talk about?
Ilco: “We should not underestimate that every crisis is hitting one specific group the hardest, and that is the group of the most vulnerable families. For example, I am super grateful to have a garden. People with small houses, low income, they seldom have a good garden. They seldom have enough space. They seldom have good internet and they don’t have enough laptops. So, for them it is really a push back, especially for the children.
“As a country, we are rich enough. But we still have one million people who live up or below the level of poverty. One million! That is absurd, we should organize that much better.”
You hear sad stories of children when they get the request from their teacher to be available for this online course, but the internet is not working properly, there is no place to sit, there is no laptop. And of course, we could do something about it. I mean, as a country, we are rich enough. But we still have one million people who live up or below the level of poverty. One million! That is absurd, we should organize that much better. Thousands of families need food from the foodbank, and the foodbank is closed right now, so it’s quite difficult for them to find affordable meals. I am really waiting for someone to stand up and use this to fight poverty better.”
WeR1: We know that the workers in the care industry have a vital role in our society, we see that especially now. We all want to show them our gratitude and appreciation in different ways, one of them being the Hart voor de stad initiative. Besides this initiative you started, do you have a special message for them?
“The crisis proved that we care for our neighbors, we develop a lot of positive initiatives, and now we are probably valuing certain essential jobs much more.”
Ilco: “My message is that I am very happy that they are there and that they do their job. I think we see now, even more than ever, how important they are. Half a year ago, there was a huge demonstration in the Hague where they asked the government for a little raise. The answer was no. I think if they would to do it now, the answer will probably be yes. The crisis proved that we care for our neighbors, we develop a lot of positive initiatives, and now we are probably valuing certain essential jobs much more. Hopefully, we are also going to fight harder to push back poverty.
I think if we want to see it, there are absolutely a lot of opportunities to grow, transform and change right now. And let’s PLEASE not get back to normal! People say: “I wish we could go back to normal. While normal isn’t that good for a lot of people, so hopefully we learn and come back better instead of normal.”
WeR1: Like you said, it’s a good opportunity to reinvent ourselves right now.
Ilco: “Yeah. Reinvent how we think, reinvent the facilities. The government needs to take care of and how we deal with the challenges certain families and children have. Because we all deserve the same chances and the same opportunities and we are still not there yet!”
“People say: I wish we could go back to normal. While normal isn’t that good for a lot of people, so hopefully we learn and come back better instead of normal.”
The collaboration between Hart voor de stad and WeR1 Connection is generating a lot of positive and inspiring attention. We certainly hope that we can take advantage of this situation and come out as a better version of ourselves.
You can also become part of the initiative and spread the sentiment of togetherness. Just visit the website Hart voor de stad and upload your heart!