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From living to working on Wolphaertstraat

From Buurtbrief (neighborhood newsletter) April 2023, by Lobke

photography: Annet Delfgaauw

At W1555, there is room for 46 households, and it is not often that someone moves out. Elze is flying out; she was active for the residents' association until the last hour. On the eve of Elze's departure, we meet her for a conversation.

Elze, you lived in Wolphaertstraat for the past 1.5 years, and were part of W1555. Can you tell us what W1555 is?

W1555 is a collective of artists, creatives and social persons who choose to live together and commit to the residents' association to keep these social housing units available for these target groups. Residents who respond to a property enjoy a deeper relationship with each other than just the occasional cup of sugar. After all, besides being neighbours, you are also colleagues in managing the association. But above all, there is mutual support and friendship.

Beautifully said! And in particular, what is W1555 to you?

For me, it meant that apart from receiving a house and new neighbours, I also received a new group of friends when I was selected to join in 2021. It felt like I had won a lottery ticket! And despite living alone in my little flat, I always felt very safe because I knew all my neighbours well.

We are very curious: where are you actually from, and what was it like for you to live in this neighbourhood?

I grew up in the “Randstad” and have lived in Rotterdam for 20 years. Before that, I lived in Overschie, which is really like a village. Charlois is a lot more exciting, vibrant and multicultural in that respect. I really enjoy walking along the Wolphaertsbocht among all the different shops and the hustle and bustle. And within a few minutes, you can reach the banks of the River Maas with a million-dollar view of the skyline. I also found everyone very friendly in the neighbourhood—the city at its best!

Do you perhaps have an interesting neighbourhood anecdote?

Once, on an evening walk on the other side of the neighbourhood, I came across someone who was having a breakdown because he had become homeless. I just took him home and gave him my groceries for the day. If you take a moment to hear someone's story, you find out that they are just like you, only under different circumstances. I still wonder about him sometimes. I hope he got the help he was hoping for at the Salvation Army.

At W1555, we have 3 different project spaces for social tenants. Including Wolk, Corpo and Buurderij op Zuid. We're glad you're working at Buurderij op Zuid (Wolphaertstraat 55) and will remain a regular face in the street this way! What is Buurderij op Zuid?

Buurderij op Zuid is a social co-working space for 6 freelance city-makers. We have joined forces under the name Buurderij op Zuid. We each usually work on our own projects, but we also want to do something together for the Wolphaertstraat and the neighbourhood. Examples include (neighbourhood) projects such as the green “geveltuin” days (the small gardens in front of the facades of the houses) and sustainable clothing swaps. We find it important to represent the wishes and diversity of the neighbourhood, so we invite people from the area to approach us with their own ideas and initiatives that might need space and support. So whoever reads this: the door is open!

Why do you think it's important to do such work?

I enjoy and find it important to engage with my own (living) environment and to make a positive contribution to it. It’s easy to be very concerned about everything that is not going well in the world but often you have little or no influence on it. In your own environment and on the people around you, however, you do. So don't fret too much and just do something!

Elze, dear neighbour, all that remains for us is to thank you for your tireless efforts and constant sociability. We wish you good luck in the future. Anything else you want to say?

I will now move to a bigger house because that suits my current situation better but I look back on my living adventure in Wolphaertstraat with great pleasure. It was a very inspiring time and I learnt a lot. Dear neighbours, I hope to still see you regularly in the street and look forward to all the fun activities and events we will still undertake together!

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