EFDN Interview- Pierre Van der Veken from KAA Gent

10 July 2020

EFDN Interview- Pierre Van der Veken from KAA Gent

The next EFDN Interview features Pierre Van der Veken who is the Project Coordinator at KAA Gent Foundation. Pierre has been involved in the EFDN programme “Welcome through Football”

EFDN: What is a typical day in your role like? What do you love the most about working for the club/foundation?

There really isn’t a typical day at the office. That is what I like about my role. There is a lot of diversity within what I do. These last few years I have been working on our grassroots football programme, meetings with our coaching staff, or partner organisations that are involved in our sports for development programmes, on another day I am coaching. I really love the fact that I am part of a very dedicated team of people that try to make a difference every day. I still do my share of coaching and to feel the impact of a programme and see people growing and smiling is really the best feeling.

EFDN: What are the main target areas of your foundation?

We work on a wide variety of topics; accessibility, grassroots football, sport for development, social inclusion, open stadium initiatives, football culture…

EFDN: What is the foundation’s most successful programme? Can you please explain in more detail what the project is about, including the projects main aims and objectives and the impact this programme has had, within the community?

A very difficult question to answer. I think that every programme that we run is a quality programme, because of the dedication of our staff and the involvement of our partners. We really have a meaningful impact in the neighbourhood next to the stadium through the work that we do. We’ve set up different sport for development programmes: a dance school, a programme for toddlers, kids and youngsters, our community hub. But also the grassroots and accessibility programmes have had a big impact. For me personally it would be the Gantoise Plantrekkers. It’s our longest-running sports for development programme; 10 years. It’s a football team for adults (a male and a female team). We use football as a tool to create a safe haven, a place where people can grow or can find help if they need it. The programme is run together with aid workers. The football part is about creating positive experiences for the participants, it’s about building confidence, it’s about working together with other people and working on life skills. I find it a very powerful programme, you see people growing week after week: some people find a safe place through the programme, others become volunteers, some even went on to work for the club. There is not really one main objective. Some come to blow off steam, others for company, some because they need help. We try to respect everybody and what they want to take home from each session.

EFDN: What kind of initiatives are you currently delivering to help to overcome the COVID 19 crisis?

When COVID 19 hit we became active on two levels: together with the football club we used social media to inform the public and raise awareness about COVID 19.  We also developed a lot of challenges and stay fit workshops which we actively send towards the participants who normally participate in our programmes. Secondly, we had to reinvent ourselves when it came to our involvement in the local community through our sports for development ad social inclusion programmes. When COVID 19 hit, we decided to help where we can in the neighbourhood next to the stadium: delivering food packages, medicine, and more together with other local organisations. Together with some of these partners, we have developed a stay fit course. We have organised workouts in front of the big apartment blocks. People could participate on their balcony, or just by standing in front of their window. This helped keep people active and lifted spirits. We did this on a weekly basis.

Next to that we also participated in neighbourhood walks with partners. We walked through the neighbourhood with a big sign “you need help?”. People have reached out and told us they had run out of medicine, food or just wanted to have a chat. We also went to the homes of the children that take part in our local sports programmes, to have a talk on the doorstep. When parents asked we went for a walk with the kids. Because a lot of the families live in a small apartment they could go with us to sit and play in the garden of two of our partner organisations.

The sports for development programmes have restarted in the last few weeks. The first sessions were difficult to deliver as we had to take social distancing and a lot of other measures into account. But the participants were very happy to meet each other.

EFDN: What makes the role of clubs and their foundation’s so important during this crisis?

I think the main thing was raising awareness with the fans and to inform the people that are linked to our programmes about measures taken by the government. And also keeping them active. As a football club, you have a very wide reach so the things you post on your social media get picked up quite easily. We also pushed calls to action involving fundraising for food, medicine and laptops for kids who were homeschooled. It’s about setting a good example, by for example asking your players to make a video where they ask the fans to take the measures from the government seriously.

EFDN: How do you stay safe, healthy and fit? Do you have any tips or advice?

For me staying healthy and fit is about doing sports, going for a walk with a friend, eating healthy. We’ve seen that loneliness has been a real plague during COVID 19, that’s why we tried to keep in touch by going for a walk with participants, going to their house and have a little chat by the front door, give them a call or chat with them via social media. The good thing is that citizens have shown great solidarity between them, it brings people together in a way. I think that it also made us appreciate what really matters in life. To take a step back from the material things and invest in family, friends and your lifestyle.

EFDN: What are your (foundation’s) goals for 2020 and the near future?

We have just signed a new contract with our city and club for the next five years. We are in the process of setting and determining new goals for 2020 and onwards. To start, we want to reinforce our commitment to existing programmes that we have been running for years. Future goals are yet to be determined.

EFDN: EFDN believes that Football is #More than Football. Why do you think your foundation is #morethanfootball?

Because of our involvement in the local community, and the fact that we never operate alone. Every programme that we run, we try to organise with other organisations that are active in the community. Together with our stakeholders (local government, the football club and the fans) and our partners we really try to have an impact on the lives of people that participate in our programmes.

EFDN: To whom would you like to #passiton too, and why? Please choose another CSR-practitioner within or related to our network. You can even suggest a CSR topic for them to use as a starting point.

I would like to pass it on to Feyenoord. For us, they are a source of inspiration about how they use football to tackle social issues.

If you want to know more about Pierre Van der Veken and his work at KAA Gent Foundation, then you can contact him via LinkedIn.


KAA Gent – Elk Talent Telt

In 2014, the city of Ghent and KAA Gent started a new programme that provided an important role for ...

KAA Gent – Buffalo League

KAA Gent moved to the Ghelamco Arena in 2013. Right away, the KAA Gent Foundation made activities for the ...
More News Like This
26 Sep
KAA Gent Foundation

KAA Gent Started Selling Reusable Cups

10 Mar
KAA Gent Foundation

Match of solidarity