It all started in 2013 with the glossy magazine Quiet 500, in which people openly explained how poverty affected their lives. One thing led to another: at the end of 2015, with the support of two Quote 500 millionaires in Tilburg, the first Quiet Community could start; an innovative way of alleviating poverty, with the help of local sponsors and a digital platform. The concept has proven itself and has been rolled out in the rest of the Netherlands. Esther Croes was asked to work for Quiet in 2015: "A question I was asked at the right time. After a career in the events and musical industry, I was looking for more meaning. Quiet immediately ignited that flame."
Officially, things are going well in the Netherlands; the economy is booming, unemployment is low. Yet at Quiet Community Tilburg they don't immediately hang out the flag. "For people in poverty situations, it is very difficult to hitch a ride on the recovering economy, we notice", says Esther Croes. "Often there is a combination of persistent problems: a debt burden and all the stress that comes with it, a low level of education, health problems, these are all factors that make it difficult for you to get paid work. Moreover, it is not the case that a paid job makes all problems disappear like snow in the sun. Many of our members are working poor, with salaries at or just above the minimum wage and temporary contracts."
Heart under the belt
Quiet Community wants to alleviate poverty and strengthen people by doing so. At the moment, almost 1,500 Tilburg households can make use of a free sponsor offer about six times a year. Esther remains enthusiastic about the solidarity in Tilburg society that makes this possible. "If you know that 400 local sponsors are helping us to support people on a regular basis... how beautiful that is! All those entrepreneurs, who spontaneously say 'yes' when we walk in and ask if they want to help us to do something for people in poverty. They also see in their daily practice that many people can't afford, I name it, to go out to dinner once or have a broken bike repaired. All the more beautiful that we can all send out a signal: hey, we are concerned about your fate. That's where it starts. Often there is disbelief among new members... sometimes they don't want to give them this gift after explaining it three times. That's such a boost."
Shame and hesitation
Quiet team leader Wouter Hoekstra has only been with Quiet for a few months, but is already familiar with the positive effects: "Look, just for a moment, solving the problem of poverty, we're really not going to be able to do that. But what we can do is soften and strengthen. Giving people tools to get the best out of themselves. Already during the registration interview we stimulate them to discover and use their talents. With our walk-in mornings we want to get people out of their shells, away from social isolation. Poverty not only limits your possibilities, but shame also plays a role. You regularly see people come in timidly, and then walk out with their heads held high two hours later. Contact with fellow-sufferers helps people to take steps to gain more control over their lives. A next step that many people take is to contribute to the community as a volunteer within Quiet and to gain self-confidence and experience by doing so."
The Quiet motto is "Soften, Strengthen, Tell". Esther Croes says about the latter: "We notice that it is still very necessary to explain how poverty can affect a person's life. That's why every year we use World Poverty Day, 17 October, to make a noise for silent poverty. We use a media campaign to draw attention to the personal stories of our members."
Quiet is a Tilburg initiative, but the concept has proved so successful that initiators in other cities have also jumped on the moving train. There are now also Quiet Communities in Den Bosch, Maastricht, Groningen, Hilvarenbeek, Drechtsteden, Rotterdam, Nijmegen, Oss and Amersfoort. They operate independently and each has their own funding, but work together to maximise the effect of the Quiet approach. Quiet Community Tilburg is located at Hoflaan 23, 5044 HA Tilburg. More information can be found on www.quiet.nl
GOLDEN TIP FROM ESTHER
"Tilburg people don't like cold crowds, expensive words or hard work. If you are direct and honest with them, you don't need any sales tricks."