StreetwiZe • Mobile School. In Leuven. The office is situated in the middle of the centre, in a building previously housing ‘de studio’, a cinema all Leuven alumni know rather well. It doesn’t take long for me to be treated to nostalgic stories. One specific story catches my attention: if you didn’t like the film, you just stood up and left and they would even reimburse you! This building, in which many students had a good time (at least up until the first ‘free’ half an hour) nowadays gives hope and a future to numerous street children all over the world. Once inside, time flies. My money? I’m afraid that’s gone.

Street children can be considered a rather marginal issue, a stain on our western ‘civilisation’, ostentatiously ignored due to its relatively small scale in Belgium. They do exist, though, even here. Most of the more than 150 million street kids live outside of Belgium, quite logic if you consider Belgium’s population is around 14 times smaller than the total number of street kids. There are only eight countries on this planet counting more inhabitants than street kids, a sobering thought.

Of course this is all very sad, but what can I do as an individual? A lot. This doesn’t mean we all have to take a plane to the slums in Africa and South America. I’m a translation student. My translations directly help kids attend to one of the 50 mobile schools spread over 25 countries on four continents. If there’s one thing I learned here, it is that everyone has talent. I learned this both from my colleagues as well as from the stories of street kids themselves. Get out of your comfort zone (the green plains of the Kempen in my case) and experience new things. You’ll be surprised of the things you can achieve. If you have an idea, try and work on it, involve other people, ask for feedback and don’t give up. Do you have a dream? Quit that boring 9 to 5 job and go for it, because let’s be honest, what’s to lose? A street kid would not let any opportunity pass by, it sees and seizes them all. We, in the West, don’t even see half of the opportunities arising! We can learn more from street children than you think. I think I’ve been StreetwiZed.

I try to close the door behind me, on my last day in the office, this powerful message on my mind. It turns out to be impossible to close the door completely, I leave and don’t close it. I have a feeling no one ever slammed this door. All the acquired knowledge and experience I gathered here will certainly be of use in my professional career. Now I’m absolutely sure I’ve been StreetwiZed.