Football, friendship and our new pitch


Rens, Mark and Bart-Jan are three football-friends from the Netherlands. When one of them, Bart-Jan, moved to Lesvos to dedicate himself to the crisis on the island, working as our managing coordinator, the other friends became inspired to do something to help too. Mark and Rens, along with Rens’ father Erik, ended up building one of the most loved features of our Kara Tepe CampUs - our football pitch! Their story is an inspiring example of the power of friendship, collaboration and a bit of hard-work. We spoke with Rens after he returned from Lesvos to find out more about how it all happened!

How they did it

Where did the inspiration for this project come from?

"We wanted to contribute something concrete, a nice project we could finish in a week. Stavros, the site manager for Kara Tepe, already had wanted a football pitch for a long time. We really liked the idea because we share our love for football. Bart-Jan knew the spot for it in Kara Tepe - it only needed a couple of guys willing to make it!" 

How was it to build the pitch - did you already have experience doing something like this? 

"We are not [professional] builders. I am a lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam, Mark works for the municipality of Rotterdam and my father is retired. We decided 'how hard can it be', we googled it and decided to watch some tutorials on youtube and just went for it! Along the way we tried to figure out what the next step would be. Bart-Jan also had contacts who helped us. A contractor was able to help with getting the sand, the turf we needed help with, so we paid for someone to bring it in."

What was the response of the residents while all of this was going on? 

"The residents [of Kara Tepe] themselves were really interested in the process while we were building it. They helped out where they could. The kids really, really wanted to help us - but obviously because of the machinery we were using we couldn’t let them. It was good to see they [the residents] were so enthusiastic to help and contribute!"

Any challenges?

"Not having the right materials or tools to flatten the sand, or to cut grass, how to drill holes - but we were always able to figure out some solutions."

The question many will be thinking is, how did you pay for all of this? 

"We had funds gathered in the Netherlands. We started out with crowdfunding on dream-or-donate, where you can upload your project that you want to raise money for. We wrote a story about what we were doing, with a link to the site and posted it on facebook. We received a great response - I had far more likes on my Facebook post about it than I usually get!

My colleagues at work were so enthusiastic they [also] organised an auction at our new years drinks celebrations where they offered activities in exchange for money like wine tasting or gardening. Later I asked my dad who is retired to come, he started his own fundraising campaign in the church he goes to."

Wow - so it was a succesful fundraising campaign?

"Everybody was so enthusiastic. I did not hear any negative comments or reaction. I think a lot of people maybe now will start thinking about doing something for themselves, so just to get some awareness out was really good.  

We thought we would only raise €2,000, we ended up raising more than €11,000! It wasn't about raising money [though], it was about doing something that they [the residents] could use, about getting smiles on the faces of children, that was the goal - [everything else] were extras."

Building Bridges 

In getting their whole community involved in fundraising, Rens, Mark and Erik managed to not only bring people together for a great cause, they also created awareness about our Movement and helped us build bridges between towns, across countries. Their self-made project has turned heads from Lesvos to Krimpen aan de IJssel - the local municipality in the Netherlands where they are from.

The Mayor of the town proudly brought up their work at a conference we were at recently about "facing the grand challenges of forced displacement," before congratulating and thanking us for our work. It was a particularly special moment, since the Mayor of Lesvos was also there as the key-note speaker. Thank you to Rens, Mark and Erik for this gift that really keeps on giving! We hope to continue building bridges like this in the future. 

If you want to see for yourself how they did it, take a look at the step-by-step process below! 

Find out more about how to contribute to projects like these here.

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