Sandra Chedi proves that you can run a hostel in a disadvantaged area. She attracts tourists to Amsterdam's Kolenkit neighbourhood. With the proceeds, she organises cultural activities for undocumented neighbourhood children. As a Surinamese woman, she now wants to do more to combat racism.
"When we had the plan to set up a hostel in the Kolenkit neighbourhood in 2012, everyone said it had no chance of success. The neighbourhood was poorly regarded, and the property was a hangout for young people. Since then, throughout the city and beyond, WOW Hostel has become recognised as a venue that makes a positive contribution to the area. If you start a business where you are only concerned with your own growth and development, you are not creating change for others."
Setting up space for artists
In addition to WOW Hostel, Triodos Bank funds around 50 other "incubators" for artists and other creatives. An incubator is a space which allows artists to come together and create something, giving them the facilities they need.
Culture must have a place in the city and should never be a place for only the rich, so we fund incubators from their inception. In the 1980s, it was the many squatters who, with proper funding, legally turned buildings into incubators. Now we are committed to making many artists’ spaces as sustainable as possible.
"As we are also improving our own environment, everyone here experiences progress. When you are part of a community, any community, you also take care of each other. Whether it is for your family, your friends, or people in the neighbourhood. I got this attitude from home; my mother and my grandparents also had that outlook. It is, I think, something typically Surinamese. The Surinamese community is a small community, so the connections are strong, you look out for each other more readily.
Doing something for the city
Because Amsterdam allows me to be at work as an entrepreneur, I also want to give something back to the city. We built WOW Hostel when the financial crisis was in full flow. That was a difficult time, but now both artists and people with difficulties can come to us and we also reach out to people. For instance, during Ramadan in the covid-19 period, we delivered five hundred daily meals to undocumented people and those tight on money."
"I would love to help eliminate racism in the Netherlands. All young people, no matter their appearance or background, should be able to participate in society. I experienced racism myself, but always let it pass me by. Now, as an entrepreneur of Surinamese descent, I would like to play a part in solving the problem. I want to do that firstly by keeping my own workforce diverse, but secondly through a new project: WOW Lieven in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. There, together with the ROC, we are developing a restaurant where young people from the neighbourhood - many of them from culturally diverse backgrounds - follow an educational path.
I also sit on several supervisory boards, and whenever they are looking for new members, I always look within my own network. Because that's how it works - you must have the right networks to get more diversity on these boards. Quality is of course paramount, but it's not like there are no suitable people of colour."