Local Goal Getter Monique Lancée: Azaro, daycare in a new light

This week, we talked with Monique, the whirlwind force behind Azaro: a daycare, but different. Sustainability is not (yet) so much a conscious course of the foundation, but at neighborhood level all efforts are aimed at making people’s lives better (#SDG3 #SDG11). Monique uses her experiences gained in women’s shelters, addiction care and care for the mentally vulnerable, but gives it a new look.

Daycare ‘without a label’

For the psychologically vulnerable it can be of vital importance to keep in touch with fellow human beings. However, they cannot go everywhere, some places first request paperwork as an indication. You will have to fit the profile. The need to be able to engage without a label with ‘ordinary’ people is hardly met. Azaro, of which Monique is the initiator and coordinator, does this. She arranges everything, motivates everyone and has always rolled up her sleeves.

Quite hard: building a new social network

‘I saw the women sitting in front of the shelter, puffing a cigarette, arguing with each other’. The shelter had been arranged and the financial and legal support was good, but Monique noticed a lack of personal, individual attention. “When you are constantly under stress or living in fear, you have no space for yourself; you don’t take time for fun things. You not only lose yourself but also the network of friends and family. For former addicts, it is quite a challenge to use the time they first spent on the addiction differently. ‘You have to say goodbye to your old friends and build a new network… And that is quite tough’. Azaro helps people rediscover their passion through genuine interest in the person. Only when that passion has been rediscovered can you ‘connect’ with others again.

Stigma-free meeting place

Psychologically vulnerable people often find it very annoying to follow daytime activities at a mental healthcare institution. “They are treated like psychiatric patients again. They really enjoy being able to participate here, without a label. You want to get rid of that label once and for all. Everyone has their own quirks!”

There were local residents who came to Azaro through ambulant escorts. When other local residents saw that people were walking in and out, who apparently were having a good time with each other, they wanted to join in. Now all the activities that Azaro organizes are also for local residents. A seniors group has recently been established; elderly from the neighbourhood who were a bit wasted at home. In principle, there is no distinction between client, resident or volunteer. You might be all three!

The neighbourhood as a sustainable community

When asked to which global goals Azaro contributes, Monique immediately answers ‘Reuse of materials’ (#12). They make lampshades from old jeans, statues from old wood, candles from stumps in the Basilica, new clothes and blankets from rags… Monique looks again at the postcard with all 17 goals and notices that Azaro is also participating in #1 No poverty (give away clothes), #2 Zero hunger (lunch together) #3 Good health and well-being (nutrition and coaching) and #15 Life on land (organic vegetable garden). And of course, #17 (partnership), where Monique mentions the municipality of Maastricht in particular.

Azaro underestimate their contribution to #10 (Reduced inequality) and #11 (Sustainable cities and communities). It is substantial! The low threshold (also literally: vegetable garden boxes for scooter users) and the social, cultural bridges they build here at neighbourhood level have the most impact. This success has to do with their greatest challenge: ‘letting people with a non-Western background work in harmony with residents in a working-class neighbourhood where the PVV-voter is very widely represented’. Here they break through prejudices by simply putting people together. ‘By being together you realize that you have formed an image based on what you see on TV, but it doesn’t match reality’.

Not a daycare ‘factory’

The biggest wish of Azaro is to have more space to do what they do. They are very cramped, on the floor of the Ouw Sjoal. More participants is not so much the ambition, but that they keep coming. At Azaro this is voluntary, in contrast to regular daycare activities with an indication. Personal attention is the most important thing. I don’t want to become a daycare factory.’

The objective of the organization

Azaro offers daytime activities for vulnerable target groups. By standing next to her clients without a pre-issued ‘label’ but with an eye for people and the environment, Azaro lets everyone (re)discover their own qualities and passion. ‘Ordinary’ local residents also participate. A magical mix that is contagious. In this way, Azaro, together with the neighbourhood, builds on increasing self-esteem, self-confidence, community spirit and meaning in life.

The foundation currently has 76 clients, 5 volunteers, about 50 involved local residents and 3 paid employees.

The candles that are made in the Azaro studio can be ordered via the website www.azaro.nu

Interview: Severine Louf

Pictures: Severine Louf

Editing: Jennifer Timmermans