From Heilige Boontjes to Hedone with Marco

If you ever catch Marco on his days off and you study his mannerisms and style, you’d immediately take him for an artist and entrepreneur. You’d also believe him to be a married man with three kids, a cat and a dog. What might surprise you however is him being one of Rotterdams’ finest. In 2005 he joined the police academy which propelled him to gain a master’s degree in pedagogy and turn his education into palpable action. His work with at risk youngsters at Heilige boontjes and our partnership with Hedone make him a true friend.

Marco, why did you join the police?

I just had my first child and I started to notice certain things in society. Things I just didn’t agree with. I have to say that I am an anti-establishment kind of guy, but only when aiming for improvements. Ghandi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I’m able to be there where change is needed, where others might not want to go. Maybe because I’ve always been attracted to this world, the darkness. I would never partake in any form of criminal activity, but the people who do and the choices they make has always fascinated me. In short, it was the darkness and the lack of fear for it, which made me a cop.

You were already an officer when you decided to pursue further academics. Why?

When I joined the academy, I was in awe. The entire organisation and its structure were perfect and yet I spotted enormous potential. We as the police, do a lot of our work strictly by the book. When I asked my superiors why, they’d answer: “That’s just how we do things.” That’s not an answer to me. It lacked the creativity that I got used to while working as a designer. I think in solutions and the police should as well. I also found during patrols, if I just spent one more minute on a conflict, it would solve itself in a sustainable manner. Just that little bit of extra attention was enough. That’s when I decided to continue my studies because I just wanted to know more. Our vehicles are donned with the words “to protect and serve” yet we often forget the ‘serve’ part.

Why do young people resort to crime?

I believe the answer lies in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Not until the first layer is fulfilled, will you move on to the second. The kids we’re talking about are at the bottom layer. You, me, most people are brought up in the second layer. We don’t concern ourselves with finding food or shelter. We got those, always have. These kids are in a constant mode of survival and believe their solution lies in money. When you’re in that mode, things need to happen fast. Professional criminals that remain in the shadows offer them a fantasy. They’re made to believe that quick money and riches are within their grasp, but there’s limited room at the top. The professionals who are sitting there aren’t willing to part with their seat which leaves you with two options: jail or death. In short, they carry all of the risks with no prospect of the reward.

What is Heilige Boontjes?

Heilige Boontjes is a coffeeshop in Rotterdam which Rodney (van den Hengel) and I started. As a police officer I’m often asked to help find a job. Rodney and I attempted to help a lot of youngsters do so, but unfortunately, we hit the same wall time and time again. Employers do not want someone from a certain background. There is a will, just not a way. That’s when we decided to take matters into our own hands.

Candidates get to us through the parole and aftercare, the police or the center for youth. Once you’re here we’ll only ask you for your information. We don’t care what you’ve done or how you ended up here. All we care about is you as a person.

You start off with your social security intact while we teach you the basics of having a job. Everyone that applies here says they’re willing, but these kids are in survival mode, so they’ll say yes to anything. We teach you to behave like a professional, like being on time and working accurately. Then you’ll move on by doing small chores like mopping the floor and clearing tables. From there they can work themselves up to a full-fledged barista.

The national average of repeat defenders is 50%. Yours is much better with a score of 42 out 52. Why is that?

It’s about attention and the way you communicate. We speak to these guys at their own level. We’re not afraid of you and if you act out, we’ll let you know. We’ll help with your debts, home and education. Everything you need to find the stability you need to take part in society. We show them a different world where the cops aren’t your enemy, they meet patrons and students working on their papers. It’s a window to a working society of which they can become a part of.

How do I help?

Come by and grab yourself a cup of coffee. If you get your daily fill at the Coffeecompany, someone at Douwe Egberts is getting rich. When you get it here, you’re helping someone find their way back to society.

Heilige Boontjes has just undergone an expansion so there’s plenty of room. The mixture of fun, service and thankfulness Rodney and Marco created makes this coffee extra sweet.
Visit them at Eendrachtsplein 3, 3015 LA Rotterdam.
https://www.heiligeboontjes.com/