‘The Other Virus’ spreading through the Frisian capital of Leeuwarden

Since the beginning of August, Leeuwarden’s resident stadskunstenaar Cote Veragua has been spreading notes of love and compassion through the city she calls home.

Along with her intern, Janneke, and a handful of passionate volunteers, Cote hopes that their words can connect with the 128 different nationalities that live in Leeuwarden.

Away from home during the pandemic

The project, nicknamed ‘The Other Virus’, is an attempt to reach out to everyone who may be feeling a little lonely during the pandemic. Through her research, Cote has discovered that 4 out of 10 Leeuwarden residents feel alone and secluded, which is unsurprising, given that the past 18 months have been a rollercoaster for us all.

Cote and her volunteers have been working to make Leeuwarden a more cheerful place for internationals and Dutchies alike! Image: Simone Kynaston/Supplied.

Ever the kind and compassionate soul, Cote’s passion for connecting with everyone around her has been seen before; last year she chalked 55 hopeful messages in Dutch, Frisian and English around the city to keep spirits high and spread messages of hope to anyone who felt affected by the onslaught of the pandemic.

This time round, armed with bucket loads of colourful chalk and their enthusiastic volunteers, Cote and Janneke set out to cover the pavements around the city and suburbs in hopeful messages in a wider array of languages to pay homage to the multiple nationalities who live in the Frisian capital.

Making their way through the city

So far they’ve flooded the city centre, as well as neighbourhoods Heechterp-Schieringen, Bilgaard, Vrijheidswijk, and Binnenstad — all neighbourhoods with the largest influx of internationals — with positivity.

And, although the Dutch weather interrupted their hard work at the end of the first week, they were able to continue tagging Leeuwarden’s streets with sweet words after the weekend showers had been and gone.

The idea is simple enough: Cote wants the expats, refugees, and migrants who’ve not been able to see their families and loved ones since the start of the pandemic to feel at home in the city. To feel seen and heard, loved and appreciated, when everything around them is foreign.

That means that the messages will be chalked in an array of languages, from Dutch and Frisian, to English, Spanish, Polish, and many more.

A message from home

Originally from Chile, Cote knows exactly how it feels to have nothing familiar surrounding you for so long, and how it can negatively impact your mental health and well-being.

She understands that something as simple as a meaningful message in your mother tongue can push negative feelings aside and bring forth a sense of peace and belonging in its place, even when going home is only a dream for most for the time being.

That’s why these chalk messages mean so much to Cote, Janneke, and their team of volunteers — which was also made up of residents from around the world.

Mission accomplished!

The project has been fun and invigorating, and the group have had plenty of comments of love and support since they began their work two weeks ago; the new and improved pastel rainbow walkways in Leeuwarden are certainly drawing crowds, with Leeuwarders stopping to chat to everyone taking part.

Mission achieved then; bringing people together, getting people talking, and stunting that loneliness in its tracks — that was the whole point. And it’s one of the main reasons that Cote does what she does.

We think Cote, Janneke and the gang have done an amazing job so far to spread ‘The Other Virus.’ What do you think?

Want to spread your own message of positivity to support Cote’s work? Grab your own piece of chalk and scribble the most positive message you can. Share it with the hashtag #theotherviruslwd to show your support.

Feature Image: Simone Kynaston/Supplied.

Simone Kynaston
Simone Kynastonhttps://nether-netherland.com/
Simone lives way up north, where the wind blows harder and there’s an extra language to learn. She’s the world’s slowest cyclist because confident Dutch cyclists scare her and her screams can be heard for miles. When she’s not exploring the country and collecting expat friends along the way, she’s obsessed with finding the most delicious Dutch snacks, and she thinks that joppiesaus is the best invention ever.


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