Taken by Supriya Pava

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Life of a New Yorker Goes to Holland: Day 3

On the 3rd day of our exciting Rotterdam adventure we met up to purchase our tickets and board the Aqua liner heading to RDM Campus. The ferry ride was brief and we arrived shortly at the large and impressive school located right in the port area of Rotterdam.
RDM Campus Entrance
RDM stands for Research, Design, and Manufacture. The purpose of the campus is to promote education, innovation, and climate resilient communities in Rotterdam. The campus was once a shipyard and is now an education and training center contributing to the city's economy and empowering the youth. While RDM campus is a prime example of waterfront redevelopment by making such productive use of the space and their Innovation Dock, there was no community voice or representation in Rotterdam to support it in the beginning. Initially there was not enough time or people to invest in building the campus. One of our tour guides even admitted that there were not many people from his own nearby village enrolled and benefiting from these new innovations.  It was a process and eventually several different stakeholders came together and the RDM campus was the result of their collaboration. Those stakeholders include but are not limited to Albeda College, Port of Rotterdam Authority, Rotterdam University, and Municipality of Rotterdam.
Climate resilient Concept House designed by RDM students
Our tour began in the auditorium where we experienced a brief presentation that explained the history and significance of having such an innovative institution like RDM in Rotterdam. From the presentation we learned that the campus is a "breeding place" for students and companies to come together and focus on new economic developments in a supportive and nurturing space.
Our current tour guide:
RDM graduate turned employee

The students enrolled at RDM receive their education, professional training, opportunities to contribute to their community's development, and build relationships with established companies. As we walked around the main campus with our tour guide he explained to us that the students enrolled at RDM come from diverse backgrounds and not only receive education but also undergo extensive training programs and the opportunity to work on projects like concept houses, which are sustainable and climate resistant homes. They also take part in the redevelopment of existing homes to make them more sustainable and affordable for residents of Heijplaat, the nearby village. To the right is a photo of an RDM alumni who was taken on as an employee right after graduating. He is explaining the dynamics behind some student designs for affordable and climate resilient housing complexes.

What I got the most from visiting the RDM Campus was that coalitions are extremely important and so is community representation. Briefly after the storm Red Hook Initiative (RHI) opened it's doors, organized volunteers, and provided basic necessities like light, heat, and power to the residents of Red Hook who essentially had no communication or government response team. Because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and the extent of how unprepared the community of Red Hook was to withstand the storm, the Red Hook Coalition was formed. As a youth involved in a Social Justice Fellowship with RHI who was personally affected by Hurricane Sandy I appreciate the support that was provided to us by an organization whose main function is to represent, empower, and improve the quality of life for the people in my community. Red Hook Initiative along with the other organizations involved in the coalition came together much like the companies that formed RDM campus. The common goal is to not only be more prepared for the next storm or flood but also create a more sustainable community overall and improve the quality of life for residents EVERY SINGLE DAY, not just when it storms.

Exploring a Concept house still being built
Red Hook Initiative takes a stand to empower the youth in our community of Red Hook. Seeing the correlation and effect of the same work taking place all the way in Rotterdam was truly inspiring. I wondered how effective the impact of such an education center would be in Red Hook and other areas of New York City. Both Rotterdam and Red Hook have high unemployment rates in their communities and with the RDM Campus and RHI providing training and opportunities to the youth they are both that much closer to making sustainable and climate resistant living conditions. There is so much we could accomplish by also  utilizing and redeveloping our unused spaces while empowering the youth in the community of Red Hook even more! 

I'm learning so much while here in Rotterdam and noticing the many differences as well as similarities that exist between the two communities. Tomorrow is a new day, a new tour and more things to learn and experience while living The Life of a New Yorker (.com).

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