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Unlock your Energy: Youngsters broadcast their feelings on web radio in post-lockdown project
Vulnerable youngsters have been under increased pressure during the Covid pandemic. That’s why Belgium’s leading philanthropy institution the King Baudouin Foundation has launched Unlock your Energy to inject immediate cash into projects to help them get together, develop their skills and have fun after lockdown.
More than 100 initiatives for 15- to 25-year-olds from around the country were selected and more than €800,000 handed out in a fast-track process to kickstart actions over the summer. The projects aim to counteract the negative effects of long periods of social isolation. Whether helping children escape their urban environment, express their emotions or improve their confidence, they focus on giving them a better chance of a successful return to social and educational activities.
Marolles youth centre launches web radio
The Marolles is a colourful neighbourhood in the city-centre of Brussels that can trace its history to medieval times. Today it’s a multicultural that despite benefitting from investment and renovation remains deprived. During the pandemic, confinement had a disproportionate effect on its youth population, who often live in cramped housing.
With overzealous parents discouraging kids from going outside and police handing out a record number of fines for breaching Covid regulations, youngsters were under intense pressure. “It wasn’t easy for them to remain inside. We tried to explain how to adapt to situations,” says Remy Claes, youth centre leader at Le Foyers des Jeunes de Marolles. “Although it was warm at the beginning of the pandemic, there were children turning up here completely covered and with their hoods up out of fear of the virus. There were others who we never saw.”
But the period was also marked by numerous acts of solidarity, points out Claes. And these two aspects, negative and positive, form the themes of the Covid project Radio ‘Los Mar’, which was awarded €7,558 by KBF.
Providing 10 youngster aged 15 to 25 with the opportunity to learn how to run a web radio as well as express their confinement experiences, radio programmes are initially being pre-recorded, “because the youngsters might make a mistake and in working-class neighbourhoods everybody knows one another and can quickly point a finger,” explains Claes. The aim is to do a live show at the end of the project, with everyone having the chance to participate through questions and testimonials.
Setting up web radio requires numerous skills, from planning a programme and deciding on the music and how long it should be played, to learning how to express yourself, says Claes. Holiday workshops have helped by focusing on various techniques, before the final mixing and presentation of the show.
With a background in theatre, Claes also writes scenarios for youngsters that encourages them to share their experiences. One was inspired by the confinement difficulties for a 23-year-old man who had to share a bedroom with younger siblings. The animateur has learned to incorporate various techniques into his classes, such as body language, especially for younger participants who are more reticent to express themselves.
The majority of the youngsters originate from Morocco and Africa. “There’s a real mix of people and genders,” says Claes. He likes to see the evolution of the personality of the youngsters during their work together. “The aim is to bring feelings to the surface in an atmosphere of trust. Listening is very important and we also use improvisation and workshops encouraging introspection.”
The centre was established in 1961 and has grown over the years to its present multidisciplinary team of 10. It runs multiple activities, from the creative and sporting to educational and practical, as well as residential camps. The latter includes exchanges with the French Antillean island of Martinique. “It’s a real carrot when persuading kids to get involved,” admits Claes.
Projects frequently originate from the youngsters themselves, who are represented in a youth committee. They often focus on a central theme. A previous project tackled discrimination in its wider context, inviting outside contributors such as Amnesty International.
A vote of confidence for young people
Jury president and psychology professor at UCLouvain commented on the project: “Unlock your Energy is a vote of confidence by the King Baudouin Foundation for young people. By giving them the means to carry out projects together, they are allowed to ‘reset the machine’ after a long period of shutdown. And we are responding to their vital need to recreate social bonds.”
The call for projects at the beginning of the year received 472 applications with a total of 102 selected by an independent jury: 24 in Brussels, 25 in Wallonia and 53 in Flanders. Each one received between €2,500 and €20,000 in support. The project also received financial support from the Solvay Solidarity Fund, the Ackermans & van Haaren Solidarity Fund, and Fit With A Star, in collaboration with Basic Fit.