On holiday? To rest? Get out of the rut? No – no further plans.

    Welcome to the Neighborhood Campsite in Immerloo Park, in the south of Arnhem. More than thirty adults and twice as many children are “holidaying in their own backyard,” says one participant. For barely two days, from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, their tents are located a few minutes’ walking or cycling distance from their own home.

    “Holidays are too expensive for us,” says a single mother of five. “We have had our house painted, our piggy bank is empty,” says a fellow camper, a few tents away. “I’m close to here in the asylum seekers’ center”, explains one participant; then holiday stories are quickly told anyway.

    It was ‘Black Saturday’ in Europe. Tens of millions of tourists got in each other’s way, literally, on autoroutes ‘du soleil’, rail links and airports. After two corona years, this form of freedom lured again.

    The Buurtcamping is a national initiative, this summer in about fifty city districts, during one of the weekends in June, July or August. In Arnhem Dagmar Kroes (36) and Arjen van Kalsbeek (75) are part of a group of volunteers who have done the organizing work.

    “Recruiting participants required the greatest effort,” says Van Kalsbeek. “Two weeks ago we barely had registrations,” says Kroes. “But we said: we will not give up, it will continue!”

    They look around with relief, at the hundred children and adults that surround them. Van Kalsbeek: “Next year we hope for twice as many participants. That is also the maximum size for a weekend, in which you want to strengthen social cohesion between different groups of residents.”

    Pop-up campsite

    The Netherlands is in miniature around Park Immerloo. It borders the mixed districts of Vredenburg and Kronenburg, the so-called ‘power districts’ Malburgen-West and East and the wealthier Holthuizen neighbourhood. Just try to bring the different inhabitants together on one pop-up campsite.

    At the Buurtcamping – such as here in Arnhem – local residents who are less fortunate can come and camp.
    Photo Flip Franssen

    Organizer Van Kalsbeek, a retired psychologist, lives “on the gold coast side of the park”. With a smile he characterizes his neighbors as “moderately tolerant”. With his social heart he arouses the sympathy of many, but this slowly leads to active cooperation in his project.

    The national Buurtcamping organization reports on its website that it has joined a national campaign ‘One against loneliness’. It is a coalition of dozens of governments, companies, social and cultural institutions.

    How does this work in practice – taking people out of their social isolation? Is the Buurtcamping a means to bring this goal closer? This has not yet been achieved in Arnhem-Immerloo this year. Just as intercultural dividing lines cannot be brushed away while camping: the vast majority of the participants can be labeled as autochthonous.

    South American dancing and screen printing

    In any case, this Buurtcamping has not lacked a dazzling recreation program. The couple Desirée van de Pol and Bernard Menting say they were pleasantly surprised by everything Saturday brought them. workout; screen printing on a linen bag; a tasting of smoothies and water with a variety of herbal flavors; a lesson in South American dancing.

    From storytelling, barbecues to screen printing: children and adults can enjoy themselves at the Buurtcamping.
    Photo Flip Franssen

    And, oh yes, a nature walk through the park. Van de Pol tips: „The nature guides, you have to talk to them; they were so much fun!”

    They are Remco Wester and his daughter Louna (9). Wester: “We do all kinds of nature projects together, here in Arnhem and the surrounding area. I really want to make my job of combining sports and nature education. Louna does a large part of the story in field trips. That is very well received.” Louna: “I want to work on a camping site in nature when I grow up.”

    When night falls on this Saturday, the flame goes into the campfire, as it should be. A storyteller gathers the children in the front rows around him, followed by the adults. The kids get to help tell a “very dirty story” – by making noises during a story about “poo and pee”.

    If something fraternizes – then this, after all.

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