A Network of Courage and New Beginnings

Two SIFE projects explained

by Eun A Jo

Diversity. Awareness. Creativity. These words form the motto for SIFE UCU. They sound cheesy, then again, so is pursuing a genuine passion for a cause.

For those not acquainted with Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE): it’s an international, non-profit organization promoting social entrepreneurship. Student leaders from various communities can initiate projects to help out those in need, both socially and economically. Improving their quality of life is definitely one goal, but the overall bond of the society is the more profound side of the SIFE objective.

Chair Corine Bos, says SIFE works by the proverb “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.” Sustainability of these projects is crucial. Recognizing the lack of longevity in various community service projects, SIFE strives to build a relationship of mutual trust in an attempt to eliminate the concerns of temporary association.

Active involvement and productivity of the participants play another grave role. SIFE projects beneficiaries are not just receivers of altruistic donation and affection – in fact, they are the project partners. In that sense, SIFE is merely the initiator, a momentary source of guidance. After the settlement of the project, SIFE leaves the work entirely to the participants.

SIFE UCU currently has three active, on-going projects and one in the early stage of development. The “Inspiration Café” project has its base in Zuilen, the northwest district of Utrecht. This settlement has approximately 23,000 inhabitants with an ever-growing number of newcomers. Many of its inhabitants have experienced addiction of some kind. It is not difficult to picture its messy surroundings, with widespread instability and depression.

Thus, the Inspiration Café’s social goal is aimed at bringing people together for different activities, while simultaneously enhancing their self-esteem. The economic goal is to efficiently run a sustainable bar in the community center which hosts various workshops and employs local jobless youth, giving them an opportunity to get away from hanging out in the streets and a chance to earn a small income. The SIFE UCU team has also started giving weekly English classes.

Another project is ArtLinks. This project focuses on women in Utrecht’s neighbourhood Ondiep – one of the top five most troubled neighbourhoods in the Netherlands. A large majority of the people there are of non-western background and due to high unemployment rate and grave financial problems, social cohesion in the area is low.

SIFE UCU strives to create social cohesion between women of different age groups and ethnic backgrounds in Ondiep, as well as empowering them with entrepreneurial skills. The ArtLinks team organizes weekly creative workshops in the community centre “De Uithoek” during which these women make various products using clean waste material – for instance, crocheting with plastic shopping bags or vases made out of tin cans and old magazines. The products will then be sold online or in local shops, and of course, the profit will go to the women and to sustaining the project.

Profitability of the sales and complete sustainability of the projects are two goals yet to be achieved. Currently, the team is seeking ways to hold fundraisers in order to continue running the workshops. These workshops also provide an excellent platform for the participants to interact with each other, which in itself is a worthy achievement.

These are only two of the SIFE projects that are currently on-going. But as each project pursues greater collaboration from UCU students, it is likely that you will hear from them soon. So keep your ears tuned for good news in the future and become a part of a great cause that connects you to the bigger community outside the bubble!


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