Zuidas Lives

Resident Janica: ‘Neighbourhood app is now proving its worth’

‘Doing the shopping or cooking for someone has become the new normal.’ This is according to Janica Draisma, a resident in the Prinses Irenebuurt. She explains how neighbours are looking out for each other in these difficult times. ‘We’re all in the same boat.’

‘Of course, it’s a bizarre situation’, sighs Draisma, who is a photographer and film-maker. ‘I’ve been living in Zuidas for twenty years, but even when this was no man’s land, you saw more people outdoors than you do now.’ Vulnerability and mortality are important themes in Draisma’s work. ‘These are things that now affect all of us. Older people in the neighbourhood are particularly worried. Of course, everyone has their own way of dealing with it, but you try to join forces with other residents to create a safety net for those who need it. We’re living in a time when connection and dialogue really matter.’

Asking for and offering help

The app ‘Nextdoor’ provides a solution. Draisma: ‘Local residents have been using this app for some time, but it mainly focused on such issues as stolen bikes, whether someone wanted to babysit or the announcement of a neighbourhood event. We now use the app to ask for and offer help. Doing the shopping or cooking for someone has become the new normal. The app is also a useful way of keeping in touch. Dropping by for coffee is not really an option now. Being able to use the app to share the fact that you’re in the same boat is a really useful source of comfort.’

Bridge at Beethovenstraat, 18 March 2020 Photo: Janica Draisma

Challenge

Draisma herself is remaining calm despite the situation. ‘I’m not in the risk group and am keeping to the guidelines set by the RIVM (Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment). I don’t think there’s much more you can do. My life hasn’t changed that radically either; as a freelancer, I often work alone, so I’m used to that. But I can imagine that working from home can be quite a challenge if you’re new to it. I think a lot of people miss the social side of working in an office and are also scared of losing their jobs. I’m also now starting to notice that meetings are being cancelled and projects postponed.’

Consequences

However, Draisma does worry about the consequences of this crisis: for the economy, the cultural sector and for Zuidas. ‘I’ve watched with amazement and a sense of wonder as Zuidas has developed before my very eyes. From 1985 to 1990, I studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, which is very close to here. It was like the back of beyond. When I moved into the Prinses Irenebuurt in around 2000, it hadn’t changed much, from my perspective. It certainly wasn’t the diverse and vibrant neighbourhood it now is and that’s partly because of the developments in Zuidas over the last ten years. I hope the crisis doesn’t mean an end to this development.’

Beatrixpark

In order to get out and about, Draisma likes to visit Beatrixpark, which her flat looks out onto. ‘It’s definitely a bonus having a park like that just on your doorstep. When I’m there, I briefly forget about what’s happening at the moment. It’s quite cathartic seeing nature just carry on doing its thing and the bulbs out in full bloom. Nature is a constant reminder of the miracle of our existence and makes me grateful for every day I live. As far as that is concerned, I hope that, once this situation has passed, that there’s more focus on nature in Zuidas: even more green areas. I’ve noticed that the municipality has recently already raised its game in that respect, but there’s always room for improvement. From my perspective, there could also be a few more incubators for artists.’ She then receives a new message on Nextdoor. ‘If you don’t mind, I’ll hang up now. I’m going shopping for the lady who lives upstairs.’

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