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Sourcing manager and entrepreneur Rotterdammer Anass Meziane grew up in an inner city neighbourhood, but his surroundings at university were very different. He was inspired to create change for disadvantaged young people in the city because he had seen a lot of young people fail to reach their potential in his own neighbourhood of Crooswijk. Anass co-founded Wrokko, a foundation geared towards equipping young people with a network, the soft skills, and the support they need to better prepare for a competitive job market.

What is it about your effort that makes a positive change?

“Crooswijk is still recovering from its reputation as one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Netherlands back in 2016. Many of its students still come from a less privileged background; they miss having role models and a stimulating environment while growing up, but many also go through their studies doing the bare minimum. They are not encouraged to do any extra-curricular activities outside of lectures and mandatory assignments,” he said.

So Anass, together with fellow entrepreneurs Younes Douari and Mohcen Boutaghrout launched Wrokko, a platform that matches young adults from Rotterdam with experienced role models keen to help them with their careers. Its name is a play on the Surinam-Dutch word wroko meaning labour or chore.  These matties (Dutch slang for buddies) help the young people with navigating the job market and ‘personal branding’. Wrokko’s motto, ‘Raise the bar and lower the threshold’ comes from its mission to remove societal biases and ensure equal opportunities for young people, regardless of their backgrounds.

Wrokko aims to inspire young people, train them in soft skills, guide them to be better at interviews, for example, and provide them with a network.

My goal is to eliminate inequalities and biases based on social status.

Why do you do it?

"I come from Crooswijk too, and have seen what a lack of a stimulating environment does to young people.” Anass got his initial inspiration from some young men at Rotterdam station hanging around the public piano in the foyer. “They were playing and singing an old hip-hop song when all of a sudden one of them played Fly Ludovico Einaudi, the theme to the film The Intouchables. It was so unexpected because he was in a track suit.

“I realised that my preconceptions about him were probably the same as those of potential employers. I asked him if he had a job; he said he didn’t get invited to interviews. So I videoed him playing the piano and introducing himself as a job seeker. When I posted the video to LinkedIn, it went viral and he received several job offers; he now has a job and is also a music student.

“I can see that giving young people a helping hand really makes a difference to their life chances – that’s why I do it. My goal is to eliminate inequalities and biases based on social status.”

How can others get involved in doing something with you – or something like what you’re doing?

“We find the young people who most need our help by working with educational institutions, and put them in touch with our group of mentors; we are always on the lookout for more mentors and I would particularly like to encourage RSM alumni to take part. We are also looking for partners who can offer employment or provide mentors.”