A Serious Interview: Locked up with 3FM Serious Request

With the Dutch fundraising campaign Serious Request in full swing and over 6.3 million euros collected through Tuesday evening, NL Times takes a seat inside Het Glazen Huis, the glass house on Haarlem's Grote Markt, to chat with two of the 3FM disk jockeys broadcasting the 2014 fundraising effort. The main focus of this years’ event are girls and women in war-struck regions who have fallen victim to sexual abuse. Three 3FM radio DJs are giving them a voice by locking themselves up and broadcasting twenty-four hours per day for a full week while collecting donations in person and online. “It is as if someone has put a glass house in the middle of a packed stadium and you’re stuck inside,” says DJ Gerard Ekdom. He has done it many times now, but is still struck by the enormous effect this event has. “It is far more impressive than I could ever imagine,” says first-timer, Domien Verschuuren. “But it is also surprizing how fast this place became my home. In a sense, we’re like a cosy family, drinking lots of tea together. The three DJs are not allowed to eat while in the house and rely on three health shakes a day. “The first one is delicious, the second one usually horrific and the third is a combination of the two,” Ekdom tells us with a friendly sneer towards the production team. “But the hardest part is the lack of sleep,” says Verschuuren. “I am just one of those people who need their sleep.” Ekdom agrees, adding, “I slept two hours last night and one hour the night before, but honestly, I would do this for three weeks if allowed. To collect more money and help even more people. It is such a good feeling.” Ekdom signs a piece of artwork set to be auctioned off as part of the programme. The third DJ, Coen Swijnenberg, is on duty and at work at the DJ table. Thousands of people are looking in on the team when some girls start knocking on the window, and Ekdom waves at them. “If I don’t wave, the knocking won’t stop,” he smiles.

Their day consists of celebrities passing by, musicians performing live songs and people from all over the country sharing their fundraising activities. “When certain catchy songs are played, the entire crowd jumps up and down; I can’t get enough of these moments,” Says Ekdom with a smile. Each night they get a different “nacht kracht,” an energy boost to help the DJs through the night shifts. Dutch celebrities step up and provide much needed support to the team as they broadcast through the wee hours. “But despite all the fun, we don’t forget why we’re here,” Ekdom said. “It’s impressive to see how people have embraced this important topic of sexual abuse.” Verschuuren nods, saying, “I am amazed by how parents and schools have taken different approaches to inform their children. But they get it! The response is phenomenal.” Each year the Dutch radio station 3FM and The Red Cross choose a topic, based on urgency, relevance and on how a situation affects them personally, NPO 3 spokeswoman Noëlle Beyne explains. The touchy subject of sexual abuse has crossed the short list for years and was finally selected. “We felt it was time; we’ve organized this event for ten years now and feel we’ve gained enough experience and credit to tackle this.”

The DJs talk about this years’ theme passionately. “Many of the girls are too ashamed to address what happened to them, resulting in isolation and despair Often they have children by their assaulters,” Ekdom says. “Talking to local people from the Red Cross, empowers these girls and helps them to move on and create a future for themselves.” In a television piece shot on location in Colombia by initiator and 3FM colleague Eric Corton, The Red Cross also talks to the culprits and soldiers, who cause many of these dramas. Often they are not fully aware of the effect of their actions and need education and discipline, implemented both by their leaders and governments. A group of about a hundred men and women, dressed in Dutch water rescue service outfits, appear at the window. They have come here by boat, to donate the money they collected. They slip their check through a mailbox, built into one of the glass walls. “People stand in line for up to two hours,” says Verschuuren perplexed. “You might expect people to stand in line for a ride on a rollercoaster, but this is just to put an envelope in a mailbox. Fantastic!”

Three cheerful radio DJs; it might seem a far stretch from the girls this is all about, but outside the house, four little girls talk about the topic, proving the message is getting across. “I just can’t imagine something ever happening to me,” one of them says as she shrugs her shoulders in disgust. Her friends nod quietly. The DJs find out the final total raised over the week along with a television and radio audience on December 24 when they are released from the glasshouse in time for Christmas Eve dinner. Serious Request started in the Netherlands and has kicked off in several countries including Sweden, Austria, Portugal and as far as South Korea and Kenya. Aside from being on 3FM radio, the broadcast will be shown on NPO 3 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night.