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Elsendorp, Netherlands

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Elsendorp belongs to the municipality Gemmert-Bakel and lies in Dutch North Brabant. The 1,000 inhabitants of the village, or maybe they should rather be called human souls because the residents of Elsendorp have impressively taken their fate into their own hands and are bristling with energy and a will to work.

The village Elsendorp arose only at the beginning of the last century on the agriculturally unsuitable plains of northern Brabant and had to survive a terrible trial of foot and mouth disease in the nineties. But the people of Elsendorp are accustomed to continually facing new problems and to solving them successfully. In doing so they learned that exactly in difficult times people are dependent on each other the most and at the same time are there for each other the most. As a visitor you would tend to believe the residents when they say that they already dealt with social innovations before the term existed.

The residents of the village initiated and implemented together with the municipality several enviable projects that are certainly exemplary also for larger towns. The basic idea of all these measures is that each village must attend to all generations to be able to realise a successful development.

Thus the school in Elsendorp doesn’t bring the weaknesses to the foreground but rather the use of the talents and abilities of each individual and tries to bring up the young people as self confident and full of initiative who respect their fellow citizens and strive towards a peaceful co-existence of all generations. Also the architecture and the way the school building is used emphasizes this attitude – beside tuition it serves namely as a meeting point for the young people and other village residents.

A centre was erected for the elderly village residents where they could meet regularly and also find medical and social care from a physiotherapist, a doctor and a social worker. Especially interesting is the idea of a communal lunch that takes place every Wednesday to which members of all generations who are looking for company and communication are invited

Until recently two new buildings a year were allowed in Elsendorp although there were no old buildings that could be renovated. As a result young people were forced to leave the village to find a livelihood elsewhere. The village residents no longer wanted to accept this migration and achieved with great effort special permission to expand the village. Now new houses are already appearing in a new building area at the edge of the village.

Elsendorp is also breaking new ground in agriculture that is characterised by the use of the most modern technology but at the same time a return to old agricultural and natural expanse qualities. An ever increasing role is being played by agricultural environment programmes and the ambition to return to environmental friendly forms of farming to recreate the ecological balance. In addition they are extending and improving the tourist possibilities on farms to compliment the campsite on the small lake on the outskirts of the village. Special attention is also given by the village residents to the creation of new ecological and historical nature trails and environmental education.

Elsendorp stands out for its exemplary commitment in the areas of social cohesion of all generations, citizen participation and social facilities whereby the multifunctional elderly citizen’s centre and the innovative school catch the eye. Also impressive are the efforts to preserve and ecologically orientate the agricultural farms and the measures taken in terms of nature and environment protection and the development of settling. For this Elsendorp was awarded a “ European Village Renewal Award for Special Achievements in individual or multiple fields of Village Development”.