Five things we’ve learned from 10 years of CoderDojo Belgium

Earlier this month, our Global Community Coordinator, Izzy, caught up with members of the CoderDojo Belgium team and community.

In 2012, Martine Tempels was selected as ‘ICT Woman of the Year’ by Data News, a leading publication in the Belgian market for the IT community. This nomination made Martine want to ‘inspire young people’, and led to one of our longest running CoderDojo partnerships. After meeting with the CoderDojo team at the Belgian Embassy in Dublin, Martine “realised immediately that this was the right project.” In January 2013, CoderDojo Belgium launched.

So, what has the CoderDojo Belgium community learnt from the last ten years?

1. Running a Dojo is rewarding

Running or supporting a Dojo is beneficial not only for the young people attending — it’s also rewarding for the volunteers. An Van Laer, Technical Administrator at CoderDojo Belgium, said she initially got involved with CoderDojo because she was looking for volunteer work in her field of interest that would be satisfying. “I was attracted to CoderDojo, but I never would have predicted I would still be so involved after eight years of volunteering.”

2. Volunteers are the backbone of CoderDojo

Without volunteers, CoderDojo wouldn’t be able to reach thousands of young people around the world. Wendy Vermoesen, long-time CoderDojo Belgium community member, said, “It all starts with having amazing volunteers and ideally some role models for the kids to look up to.”

3. Building a community is essential

What advice would Martine give for running a successful group of Dojos? “Building a network and knowledge sharing between coaches. Meeting each other regularly.” This is echoed by other team members, who highlighted the importance of having opportunities to connect, collaborate, and celebrate their work. CoderDojo Belgium does this by providing chances for volunteers to get together and learn from each other, including events like DojoCon, Coach Café, bootcamps, and ‘thank you’ days.

4. CoderDojo gives young people confidence

Many community members have stories about how attending a Dojo has helped young people become more confident — both with coding and within themselves. Whether it’s the inspiration Ninjas feel when they successfully complete a project, or seeing Ninjas work together to solve problems, Dojos provide a space for young people to learn and grow. Kurt De Vocht, coach and founder of Coolest Projects Belgium, comments: “People discover that it’s totally ok to enjoy playing with technology and fuel each other’s enthusiasm.”

5. Dojos are for everyone

It’s important to make Dojos a space where everyone feels welcome. Wendy expanded: “Accessibility is crucial. How do you ensure that everybody can participate?” From creating spaces for more girls to try coding, to bringing access to digital making to young people with long-term health conditions, it’s important to find ways to make sure CoderDojo can be as inclusive as possible.

What’s next for CoderDojo Belgium?

The community is running a series of events to celebrate 10 years of CoderDojo in Belgium, which started with events in March and April, including Coolest Projects Belgium. They are also planning a commemorative magazine later in the year, as well as DojoFest, a thank you day for volunteers in September.

And what are CoderDojo Belgium’s more long term aspirations? “That we are still running CoderDojo in 10 more years.”

Find out more about CoderDojo Belgium here:

CoderDojo Belgium is part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation Global Clubs Partner network. As a strategic partner, CoderDojo Belgium takes on the responsibility of supporting all clubs in their country, building a nationwide CoderDojo or Code Club community.

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