Two months in the Netherlands
By: Julien Schumacher from France
November 2016
 

It’s been two months now since I live in the Netherlands and what I have to admit is that I already feel at home here. And it wasn‘t too difficult to adapt to this new culture.

Indeed we are not so different. Yes, it can be surprising but the Dutch are also human like us! It’s not obvious at first sight. Even more when you hear this strange language full of ”hhrrrr” and ”kkrrrr”. When somebody is yelling at you because you are two minutes late. When dinner starts at 6.pm. When there is a meeting to plan the next meeting in order to prepare the next meeting. When the work is finished at 6.pm and you want to go to a shop but the shop is closed. When you take a second cookie and everybody is looking at you like you killed somebody. When you want to take a bike but it’s raining and freezing outside. When you want to ski. When every plan has to be written in the agenda, even at what time you have to pee. When you want to have a real lunch, but it’s sandwich time. When everybody is paying his part at the restaurant. When you think you understand Dutch but after 10 kilometers you cannot understand it anymore.

Okay, some of their habits are really strange. But when you get over the stereotypes you realize how hospitable, helpful and totally crazy (in the good way) they are. And if there is a place in the Netherlands where you can notice that, it is Don Bosco! I think I found a second family here. A family who really cares about us and even more about every child. Every day is a new crazy and creative day here!

And it’s the kind of athmosphere that I really needed. Even if I was reluctant at the beginning, I have to admit that I’m learning and enjoying everyday. I hope it will continue, but I think that with this team and my volunteer friends, I don’t have to worry about it!

The second star to the right, straight on until sunrise.
Door: Maria Herrera Mateos uit Spanje
Februari 2016

Peter Pan is probably one of my favourite Disney films. I must have watched it over 30 times when I was a kid. What I found most fascinating about the story was Neverland, a place where children don’t grow up, and they live without rules or responsibilities, where the most important thing is to have fun, play and live some adventures.

When you get older, you know that you can never go back to Neverland, you know that only the lost children can be there, and that playtime is over. There will be no more treasure hunts, no more battles against the pirates, no more “being silly”.

Who was going to tell me that I would come back to Neverland at 26? And that I would find it in The Netherlands? The fact is that even I can’t believe it. But here I am at Don Bosco enjoying myself like a little girl.

I have experienced many adventures in these 5 months, I have been Frozen, the Maximum queen, a doll from Monster High, but I have also been a jedi and even a martian. I have turned into a cat, and also a camel, I have been captured, I have escaped, I have built my own wooden hut in the woods, and I have lived amongst dinosaurs and in a world of flowers. I have also been a member of K3, a chef, a choreographer, an artist and I have my own dance group. And if this wasn’t enough, I have had the pleasure to meet great stars such as Saint Nicholas, Amerigo or King Arthur.

I remember that, when I arrived, what I found most surprising was to see how the children’s face lit up as they walked into the centre, they smiled and sang. They were happier than when I am having my first morning coffee. It was at that point when I asked myself, am I in Neverland? The children arrived in all possible ways: running, walking or on their bikes, on elektrische stint, or by car, or with the volunteers, or even with their dogs. They all know they’re going to have a great day, and they feel as though they’re at home.

The birthday parties with the children are very special. We have the opportunity to enjoy with them the most important day of the year for them. I remember Bodine’s birthday as being a very special one. She was celebrating her eighth birthday at Don Bosco. We organised an incredible party, my colleagues and I prepared a fashion catwalk for her. It’s fantastic to see how when you give the best of yourself you can achieve great things, like for example, making another person happy, and that, my friends, is priceless.

Another incredible and unforgettable moment for me was Winterdinner. I was in the kitchen with my group of children cooking brownies for the women from the asylum. The effort the children put into cutting the butter into little squares, the happiness with which they beat the eggs, and the dedication they put when they were melting the chocolate… Those children showed that they also have the ability to surprise everyone else and that they really are little great chefs.

But what would this place be without the people who work here? They are the ones who make the experience of working here so special for me. Each and every one of them is unique.

I’m so glad to be able to share this journey with them, because in the end I will remember those little moments we lived together. In the end, life is made up of those little moments, which we share together. Here are some examples: that kid who honks his motorbike every morning, Spela’s biscuits, the hot morning coffee, those ducks which start shouting at you for no apparent reason, the walk to Maria school, the 50 meetings, the leftovers from the birthday parties, the festivals, the parties we then eat up, the “lend me your bike keys”, the “help me move these tables Jeff”, Henny going from one place to another, the telephone ringing and no one wanting to pick up, the office being our second living room, when you don’t know what to dress up as, that face makeup that won’t go away, when you answer the phone like a secretary, Fran making flyers, when the children sing in the line, when we put the radio really loud, the 10 daily coffees, when you need to paint a kid’s face and instead of painting a butterfly you paint a spider.

I feel my future at Don Bosco is going to be incredible. I have two amazing projects: my course “We are the world”, which starts in March, and the Fashion Session which I need to organise and which will take place in May. I couldn’t be happier!!

They promised me that dreams could come true, well…it looks as though I’m living mine. Thanks to all of those who are with me living this experience. If you would like to come and enjoy yourselves at this place, you don’t need to reach the second star to the right, you just have to come to Julialaantje 26 and have a nice time at Don Bosco.