Nicola Van der Ajne

Nicole Van den Eijnde

Programme Director, Global Generation, London

Tell us a little bit about Global Generation

We’re an educational charity; we work with young people to help them create the sustainable world that they want to live in.

We are based in the middle of the King’s Cross development site, so in the centre of a regeneration area, and our home base is called the Skip Garden. Here we grow food in skips and re-used materials in the middle of the construction site.

We work with all the different people in the King’s Cross area – families, businesses, and young people – to bring them all together and connect through the platform of urban agriculture. It’s about bringing together people who wouldn’t usually meet, to create a new kind of community.

What does your job involve?

I look after our youth programme, so I oversee all the work that we do with young people. That includes our youth leadership programme, and we also do a business sustainability BTEC. We also have a café which is open to customers – the Skip Garden Kitchen, and we use produce from our garden in the kitchen, and I oversee the enterprising aspects of that.

I work on specific creative projects and new projects which are emerging. At the moment we are going through a re-branding process, and we’re also putting on lots of special events as it is our 10 year anniversary this year. I also project manage some of our other projects as well.

How did you get to where you are today?

When I finished school I went travelling for a bit, then I went to university and studied languages, with European Studies and Latin American Studies. That made me interested in development work and environmental work. I then spent quite a lot of time in South America working on community projects with children and young people, and sustainability projects.

When I started travelling and volunteering, that’s when I really started to know what I wanted to do. When I came back I did a Masters in Education and International Development, and realised that I wanted to do this kind of work in the West, closer to home. So then I started working for various different charities, helping on youth projects around social action, before I started working for Global Generation.

When I started travelling and volunteering, that’s when I really started to know what I wanted to do. When I came back I did a Masters in Education and International Development, and realised that I wanted to do this kind of work in the West, closer to home.

Skip garden, Kings Cross

What skills and personal qualities do you need to make a success of a job in this sector?

I think you need to be able to really work with people. One of the most important things is not so much to teach and dump knowledge, but rather to work together with people in a participative way, and to get the best out of others. That’s important in all our community work, not just when working with young people.

To be able to facilitate a different kind of space where people feel comfortable to share and to open up a different part of themselves is very important. And you need to be a person that can make things happen, that can take initiative, be open to new relationships with different people, and make sure that peoples’ voices are heard.