In any community, at any time, there are people who need help, and people who have help to give. Everyone has times when they could use a bit of advice or support, but hopefully also times when they feel they can help others. An international community has this duality particularly strongly, as moving abroad and international relationships can be challenging.. and at the same time, there are many intelligent educated people who would like an opportunity to use their skills. And, of course, sometimes helping others is the best way to help yourself.
The Boekenzolder (literally the Book Attic) has recently officially opened on the Middelstegracht 38, tucked away behind some buildings near the Hooigracht Albertheijn. It is essentially a free second-hand bookshop , and is the most amazing, enormous space, crammed full of books! I was absolutely blown away by the choice and the quality of some of the books - from brand new children's picture books to beautiful old volumes of poetry. They have books in many languages, including a large English-language section. They are run by the organization Borderline Books (www.borderlinebooks.nl), which aims to bring books to people on the edges of society. However, it's open to anyone, and you can also use it as a sort of library, which we do - just take some or all of the books back when you are done with them so others can enjoy them too! They have squashy sofas and my children were instantly curled up on one looking at their books, so I had plenty of time to browse in peace. It is up a flight of rather steep stairs, so be aware of this with pushchairs and/or disabilities. If your problem is more the other way round, and your shelves are overflowing, it's a great place to donate books ! They are at present only open Thursday 1-5 and Friday 11-1, but I'm wondering with more volunteers if they might be open rather more. Look at the website www.boekenzolderleiden.nl for more information.
Watch this space - new things are afoot for the Mayflower! We are hoping that a joint venture, including enthusiastic Leiden volunteers, will be making sure that we don't lose this wonderful Leiden institution. we'll keep you updated, but keep your fingers crossed!. If you want to know more or might like to be involved, email me on email@example.com.
Anyone who's read my homepages over the last few years will be used to me ranting about mending and swopping and buying second-hand. so can imagine that the Repair Café coming to Leiden makes me happy! This is an initiative to help people to learn to repair their own belongings, to increase skills and reduce waste. We went to the last one with a broken dolls' bed, and the children and I learnt all about sawing wood, and came away with an operational bed (which they then played with ALL afternoon - result!)
The next one is Saturday 9 June 1-4pm at the Pancrat Buurthuis on Middelstegracht 85, and I'll be there mending clothes! Come along, bring that thing you've been longing to mend, and join in with this fabulous idea. If you miss this one, after that it's 14 July at Buurthuis t'Schippertje, and 8 September at Buurtcentrum de Kooi. If you are a dab hand at mending things, be that bikes, electronics, carpentry, sewing or whatever, why not join as a volunteer? It's a really fun, energizing crowd, and a great way to share your skills with the community. See the website www.repaircafe.nl/leiden/ for details, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you live in the centre of town and would like a hand with brightening up your street? Leiden City Council is trying to encourage people living in Leiden, and specifically along the historic bits on the 'Leidse Loper' route, to create 'geveltuinen' outside their houses, i.e. to move some of the bricks and create a little place to grow flowers. If you live on the Leidse Loper route, and apply before 15 June, they will come and help you, and provide you with a subsidy to buy plants!
Email email@example.com. If you don't live on the route but would like some advice on what is allowed and where to begin, there are some good tips (in Dutch) here http://gemeente.leiden.nl/fileadmin/files/pdc/Geveltuin/geveltuin.pdf and in the booklet 'Leiden Buiten de Perken' (available, with other information about this, at www.leiden.nl/geveltuinen). There's a great website with information for Leiden-sized gardens on www.tuinenbalkon.nl/geveltuin, but English-language advice can be hard to find. I have to admit, we've put in a couple of tiny guerrilla geveltuinen in our street outside the rented-rooms houses opposite - and they do brighten up the street! Another neighbour has since replaced his weedpatch with beautiful pots of lavender - I think he was scared that otherwise he'd wake up to a surprise one morning.
Tanneke and I are currently working on a new section for the website, called Accessible Leiden, giving information about access in Leiden and where to go and how to get help if you have limited mobility. She is quadriplegic, whereas I'm writing from the point of view of walking with a stick and/or using a folding mobility scooter, so we can hopefully provide a range of tips for people with different levels of disability. The section will include information on accessibility of places, as well as organisations that provide help. If anyone would like to contribute to this section, in order to help others find their way, both literally and figuratively, that would be great - please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. In particular, it would be great to have input from people with children with disabilities.
At last! We don't only have the HomeinLeiden Find a Babysitter page (wonderful though it is, of course), we have Your Kangaroo ! Set up by two lovely Italian sisters and their Dutch friend, this is a service that aims to connect babysitters with parents in a friendly and informal way. Definitely worth a go, whether you want to employ someone or offer your services! Check it out at www.yourkangaroo.com.
There are times when even the best support of friends isn't enough, and this can be particularly hard in a foreign country. In the long-awaited (and it WILL happen!) Services section, we will provide emergency numbers as well as numbers of organisations that provide help for serious problems. In the meantime, I felt it would be good to at least give a few suggestions of where to start.
Please do remember that if you are in immediate danger, call 112!
The website www.huiselijkgeweld.nl is a very useful collection information about the organisations that exist. The first port of call (unless you are in immediate danger, then please call 112) is the Steunpunt Huiselijk Geweld Hollands Midden vestiging Leiden (a mouthful that just means Leiden Domestic Violence Support), a local office with a central number that can be rung during office hours on 0900-1 26 26 26 or emailed on email@example.com. I have asked, and most of them speak English. Remember: in Dutch law, the definition of domestic violence clearly includes verbal abuse, intimidation and belittling.
I frequently get asked about counselling, therapy and marital counselling in the Netherlands, especially in various languages other than Dutch. For telephone advice specifically geared to 'expats', between 8.30am and 8.30pm , an excellent port of call is the Access Counsellor on Call , see http://www.access-nl.org/about-access/what-we-do/counselling-service-network/counsellor-on-call.aspx . The telephone numbers vary per month according to who's on call. The first call is free, and then you decide with the counsellor what to do next. The equivalent of the Samaritans in the Netherlands is www.sensoor.nl, and their 24 hour number is 0900 0767. IF you want to speak to someone in either Arabic or Turkish, ring 010 436 71 71 Mon-Fri 10am to 14.00 . I'm not sure how they are on other languages.
For face-to-face therapy, I'm still looking into this, but a couple of suggestions (I don't know them personally) are http://multilingual-netherlands.expatriatecounseling.com/the_hague.html and http://www.the-expat-psychologist.nl. For a very nice Dutch therapist in Leiden who speaks really excellent English www.psycholoog-leiden.nl/ . For an English-speaking child psychologist, I warmly recommend Alison Sutton www.childrearingmatters.com, and for play therapy www.playtherapy.nl.
There is English-speaking help at hand, right here in the Netherlands. Help and advice for sufferers themselves can be found at the 24 hour helpline 020 - 625 60 57 and at the website http://www.aa-netherlands.org/drupal/ - there are AA meetings in the Hague and Amsterdam, although alas not in Leiden. Help for the family and friends of sufferers is available on
www.alanon-netherlands.org/index.html , or ring 06 486 44 690 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org. They have leaflets and meetings. Once again the nearest are in the Hague and Amsterdam, see the website for details.