A young person who doesn’t look at you when he talks to you or who is afraid to call someone. Gemma van Grinsven knows: such a young person will not easily get into a relationship. And with all the restrictions due to corona, it becomes even more difficult: “Three in ten young people suffer from psychological problems. And that is a conservative estimate.” That is why she started a relationship agency in Tilburg.

    Gemma effortlessly sums up what many young people struggle with: fears, being chaotic, low self-esteem and fear of failure. And immediately get rid of some misunderstandings: this has nothing to do with being stupid or smart, and it has nothing to do with appearance either: “Come and have a look at us, you don’t see anything. All normal, fun young people to watch.”

    Gemma has been committed to helping young people with problems for fourteen years. The fact that she is now starting a relationship agency has everything to do with corona: “They no longer have their natural contacts at work or their studies. As a result, they have lost their structure and are thrown back on themselves.”

    Communicating via a video connection is difficult, Gemma knows: “Because they don’t like to see themselves through a camera. You see it when a class has to come online. Of the 36 students, 18 have their cameras turned off. I hear it from teachers: it’s getting worse. The young people go into their shells and we see that they are getting depressed. That was the sign for us that we really have to start.”

    To get into a relationship, you have to be vulnerable. “We all know that being afraid of being told no,” explains Gemma. “But for these young people the step is so big that they never dare to take it. We want everyone to have the opportunity to build lasting friendships or relationships.”

    Gemma works together with psychologist Renske Castricum. They do intakes in Nijmegen and Tilburg, initially for the provinces of Gelderland and Brabant. On Wednesday they will start with the intakes: “Many healthcare institutions around us who know that this is going to start, tell us: this could get out of hand. Of course I hope not, but it would be fantastic if we could help hundreds of young people.”

    If the storm indeed starts to take off, Gemma has trained volunteers on hand to lend a helping hand. You can register from Wednesday via the site. This is followed by an intake in Tilburg or Nijmegen and if you opt for mediation, you will pay 45 euros if you receive benefits and 90 euros otherwise. The Orange Fund supports the initiative. “We don’t put photos on the site, because we know how sensitive this is for young people with fear of failure. We will see for ourselves who could be a match and we will bring those people into contact with each other. And we will continue to follow that path.”

    There will also be activities. Initially in Nijmegen, later also in Tilburg. “Walking, cooking or going to the museum together? The group can decide for itself what we are going to do. You are never alone, there are always companions with you. I would love it if we helped 25 couples by the end of the year.”


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