connecting two countries


connecting two countries

There is a place in the world where JCI has a Local Organization that is situated on both sides of a country border. That place can be found in Europe. A similar initiative has also started another place at that same border.

By Alexandra Grahn

A cross-border organization is a Local Organization with JCI members from two countries on both sides of the border. There is one acknowledged JCI cross-border organization in the world: JCI WJ Noabers, situated along the Dutch-German border. The second initiative is JCI Hamaland, that is starting from the Dutch side, and the ambition here is to be a full member of JCI Germany (WJ Deutschland) and JCI the Netherlands, just like JCI WJ Noabers. The goal for these organizations is to bring young entrepreneurs from two countries together and stop thinking in terms of borders. For this article we interviewed Milou Vaartjes is the co-founder of JCI WJ Noabers, Patrick Geers, President of JCI WJ Noabers and Ian van der Wielen, President of JCI Hamaland. “The name Noabers comes from the cross-border dialect and means neighbours,” says Milou. The members come from the Dutch region Twente and the German region Grafschaft Bentheim and live and work along the Dutch-German border.

The Local Organization was founded in 2017 and is a member of JCI The Netherlands since May 2017 and of JCI Germany (WJ Deutschland) since September 2017. “This combination makes us unique as a Local Organization, because we are a member of two National Organizations” says Patrick. Better understanding on both sides The second initiative of a cross-border organization is JCI Hamaland. Ian van der Wielen is president of this new Local Organization and he saw the potential to bring together enthusiastic people and young entrepreneurs of both countries.

“Potential members from both countries can join, as long as they want to contribute to a positive impact on both sides of the Dutch-German border impact,” says Ian.

The idea with a cross-border Local Organization is to work together, to get to know each other’s culture better and to gain a better understanding of the neighboring country.

“This is important for us as residents of the border region, says Geers. By setting up cross border projects, our goal is to stop thinking in terms of borders and make the region grow as a whole.”

Advice on starting a new crossborder Local Organization

Ian van der Wielen: My advice to others who want to start a new crossborder Local Organization is to choose to let anyone speak in his/her own language and don't switch to the English language.

Milou Vaartjes: My advice is that you shouldn’t take no for an answer. In the start-up phase of JCI WJ Noabers we regularly met resistance, but we believed in the cross border concept. With the help of both national organizations and many enthusiastic JCI people, we succeeded. That is one of the great advantages of JCI, the connection and helping each other.