Local Goal Getters Puck and Juul Knols, founders of Juupu: for and by youth

5 years ago Puck and Juul Knols joined forces to found Juupu. As young teenagers, together with the entire western world they were confronted with the refugee crisis. Deeply touched by this humanitarian crisis, they wished to roll up their sleeves themselves, instead of standing on the sidelines. When they offered to help as volunteers at the asylum center, they were shown the door, with ‘too young’ as reason. Completely stunned and frustrated by this rejection, they decided to take matters into their own hands, independent from the biased adults and their organizations. ‘Juupu’ thus originated as a collaborative coalition between brother and sister. Today we had a heartwarming conversation with Puck. She just successfully graduated from her secondary school. Puck also represents Juul who was unable to attend, as he is still busy completing his first bachelor year of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University College of Maastricht.

You end up in a situation of poverty when you have lost sight of the richness in yourself because of something that happened to you without being asked. (quote Puck) 

In the meantime Juupu has developed further as an organization in which about eighty active young people play a leading role. It is an inclusive group in which every young person is welcome (SDG #5, #10). Under the motto of ‘learned young is done young’, they work to improve the lives of young people. They work from the belief that everyone is born with a unique package of gifts and talents. Their approach is aimed at developing these optimally. However, circumstances sometimes jeopardize the development, causing young people to end up in a downward spiral of poverty. Poverty reduction is at the heart of their tasks (SDG #1). Puck says their definition of poverty is broader than the traditional version. In addition to financial poverty, their actions also try to combat social poverty such as loneliness and the negative impact of health problems (SDG #3).

Poverty is not limited to developing countries, but is often well hidden in your own neighbourhood.

The ‘community dinners’ were one of the first actions of our local goal getters. During these dinners they came into conversation with all kinds of people from the neighborhood on the one hand and refugees on the other. With this, it quickly became clear to our local goal getters that poverty was not limited to developing countries. It turned out that also in their own environment a lot of people were struggling with poverty. For many of these people, however, there appeared to be no safety net as they fell just outside the official criteria of poverty. Because of this new insight, Juul and Puck decided to dedicate themselves to that specific population group that was abandoned by the system.

Sharing is multiplying: after all, sharing will make you feel richer and happier.

 The product and food collection campaigns (SDG 2) are one of the main activities of this youth organisation. At this moment, several schools are participating in this. In the meantime, they have also been able to mobilize supermarkets such as Jumbo to donate products that would otherwise be thrown away as they approach their expiration date. A deal has also been concluded with the supermarket chain Jan Linders to set up collection bins, the well-known ‘Juupu crates’, in which customers can deposit non-perishable products of their own choice. These donations from schools and supermarkets are delivered to six distribution points. The logistics partners ensure that all products eventually reach several hundred needy families. This clearly shows that Juul and Puck work decisively and efficiently by entering into several essential partnerships (SDG #17).

Puck said it took a lot of time and effort to be taken seriously as a young person. The schools were the first to go overboard. But gaining credibility in business or other institutions remains difficult. As of last week, they have reached a major milestone with the consolidation of a partnership with the SNS bank (SDG #17). In 2019, this bank opened a community store. This initiative of the bank has the social goal to make Maastricht financially healthier and to educate everyone about money matters. Because this fits seamlessly with Juupu’s objectives, the SNS bank makes this space available to them. This gives Juupu the opportunity to organize physical appointments and activities. They also work together with the Red Cross, the national emergency aid organization, which can open doors to other organizations and cooperation partners.

By raising awareness about poverty, more and more young people can be motivated and inspired to become actively involved in the fight against poverty.

Besides the donations of food and basic products, Juupu also has some other core tasks. Juupu wants to increase the capacity of their foundation by informing and sensitizing young people about poverty. They do this by organizing symposia and information sessions, in which they allow both experts and professionals to speak about the various aspects of poverty.

Juupu distinguishes itself from the existing foundations because of the emphasis on youth participation. Young people can and want to make a difference. But then we, as adults, have to give them the freedom and responsibility to do so. Meanwhile, Puck and Juul are now in the age category to pass on the torch to the next generation of committed students. Their utopian dream is that Juupu will become superfluous as a poverty-fighting organization in a world in which poverty will be permanently banned. Their ultimate wish is for the ‘Juupu movement’ to have a base throughout the Netherlands, with a large group cohesion and a common ambition to fight poverty.

Never underestimate a youngster…’ It’s high time we as adults realize this, once and for all.

 The ideology, sense of responsibility, pure unbiased motivation and open-mindedness of Puck and Juul are admirable and hopeful. The world is in the hands of the young generation. They can and will make a difference, in the short and long term. As adults, we must open up to these young people and let go of our prejudices and stigmas. Everything shows that young people are not indifferent gamers, but purposeful game changers. As Puck puts it, one is never too young to start something and it is never too late to make a difference for someone. Moving a small rock in the river has the potential to push the entire flow in the other direction over time.

Text: Anna Hermans

Pictures: Jennifer Timmermans

Editing: Jennifer Timmermans