Laurentien Met the Children’s Council in Groningen

Lucky me! I am not travelling a lot at the moment, but somehow the royals have found their way to me. We recently had King’s Day here in Groningen, and in the coming weeks both King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands have engagements here in the city, even one almost around the corner. Last Thursday Princess Laurentien also came along and I happily found out before it happened.

Unfortunately Princess Laurentien’s events are seldomly listed in the royal calendar anymore. On Wednesday I however received an email from the Municipality of Groningen that she was to come to Groningen the afternoon of Thursday 17 May. The reason: a dialogue with the Children’s Council Groningen, and of course the children’s mayor Javano Zwiers, about poverty reduction in the town hall.

In 2009 she took the initiative for the Missing Chapter Foundation. What this foundation wants? That children under 18 are allowed to get engaged and that grown-ups justify what they do with their ideas. They have the right to think about problems that will influence their lives. Children should be taken seriously and should be able to talk with decision-makers. Children are creative, have imagination and have the ability to ask questions that let people think in a different direction. Adults learn how to let go and accept new ways of thinking and solutions. Missing Chapter supporsts companies, schools, authorities and social organisations that want to let children be involved in taking decisions.

At the moment five Dutch municipalities ask a Children’s Council for advice about how to reduce poverty. Groningen is one of them, and the council started its work in October 2017, with 27 children aged 10 to 14. Until November 2018 they are thinking about solutions for children in the city who grow up in poverty. One child in five in Groningen lives in poverty, with little money for a hot meal, new clothes, membership of a club, excursions or a vacation. They are often less happy than people of their age and are ashamed.

Dressed in trousers with flower print, a black top and green jewelry the Princess energetically led the discussion. With ballerinas on her feet, as she joked almost at the end, she had to move through the space a lot, so high heels hadn’t really been practical. However the quick dialogue and Laurentien running all over the room certainly didn’t delight of my camera, as when I finally had her in view, she moved again before I could take a good picture. But it was really interesting to see how she was working, talking, asking … “It was great!”, the children agreed at the end of the one hour meeting with Laurentien.

In the past months the children learnt all about poverty and visited children and young people growing up in poverty and among others had a look at the food bank. It helped them coming up with more than 300 ideas how Groningen could help. Several ideas were presented to Princess Laurentien like a poverty brigade that should visit schools to speak about poverty. Now it is up to the local council to do with these ideas.

The question is of course: what is poverty? One of the children said that when a child has more expensive shoes than the other, and therefore gets mobbed. Mobbing makes children feel unequal and ashamed, and unsafe. Children and parents should receive customized help, the children agree. Children should get a possibility to speak about their life, to other children. Because children don’t always take adults so seriously.

At the end of the meeting the children and princess, and a panel of experts posed for a picture. Laurentien took her time afterwards to talk with some media and children and even gave some signatures.

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