Every Wednesday in the lunch hour, Nutrition and Health student Mark Reijerman (27) can be found on the first floor of the Forum. There, he sits beside a banner of the Connect Wageningen political party he founded, ready to listen to the concerns of his fellow students. The new local party for young people and students is not Mark’s only thriving initiative either.
Photo Anne van der Heijden
In 2012, Mark and his good friend Aernoud van Kerkhoven set up the sports club Wageningen Beasts. ‘People were doing keep-fit individually and we wanted to form a community around it,’ says Aernoud, who has joined the conversation. ‘Everyone has something good to contribute and I want to get them joining forces,’ says Mark. This ambition led to the formation of Wageningen Debating, which Mark initiated in 2013.
Mark says it’s not that difficult to form new groups. ‘Lots of ideas fizzle out but some get off the ground quite smoothly and you get a kick out of that.’ You’ve made a start as soon as you bring enthusiastic people together, says Mark. ‘I can’t do much on my own, but I gather the right people around me, and then you start getting somewhere. I am not afraid of saying I need other people.’ Mark appreciates the fact that he can always find people who have the energy to take things on, and who are there for each other. ‘You can always appeal to people for help. Maybe that’s a Wageningen thing?’
Currently Mark is investing time in the new political party. ‘Ultimately I want to improve on Dutch democracy,’ he says. ‘I think local democracy will benefit from better representation for young people and students.’ His open lunch in the Forum is one of his ways of making contact with his target group. ‘A new person joins us every time,’ he says, indicating those around him. Aernoud looks at the mixed gathering and says: ‘That’s Mark’s talent. He got this crazy bunch together.’