Nieuws - 28 oktober 2011


Last week, I paid a visit to a Dutch family, as a volunteer (at least, I thought I was). In the end, however, it appeared I was the charity case.

Michelle, Matthijs and me
On October 2nd, I contacted Humanitas, a Dutch volunteer organization supporting people with emotional problems, to express my willingness to become a member. Three days later I got their reply: 'It's the first time we get a question from an English speaker asking to be a volunteer,' they said in the email. 'I hope I can give you an answer soon (maybe next week).'
Just five days later, on October 10th (wow, if only IND's employees were as efficient as them!) I received an email as follows: 'Hello Derek, some time ago you expressed the wish to meet a Dutch family. I think I found one young couple. Are you still interested?' I was extremely proud; I thought I would be the first non-Dutch in that organization. 'Yes, I am.' My response couldn't be briefer (or weirder, since it sounds like some lines in a wedding ceremony). With the information they provided, I smoothly made an appointment with that family. 'Pay attention to your words, they might be sensitive,' I reminded myself before the meeting.
At eight o' clock I arrived at their home. Matthijs and Michelle, the young couple, gave me a warm welcome and showed me around their house. When we finally sat down in the living room, I went straight to the point: 'Matthijs, how did you get to know Humanitas?' 'I think I have heard of it, but I'm not sure what they do,' he answered. That made me confused. 'Didn't you get in contact with me through Humanitas?' I asked. 'No, I know you from the Contact Program,' he said.
'Oh!' I put my hands on my head, 'I thought you had some emotional problems and I was the guy to help you!' Then I explained my stupid mistake to them: it should be dated back to the email on October 10th; it was not from Humanitas but Contact Program. It is a local program in Wageningen, aiming at helping the foreign students adjust to the new life here. I filled out the application form during the AID, but didn't get their reply until October: no wonder I didn't recognize them in emails.

Anyway, it became a wonderful night and I earned two new friends.

Winter has quietly slipped into this small town, and I know no place warms you up better than your home. For many foreign students, however, home is somewhere thousands of kilometres away. But why not fill out that form and get some warmth from a hospitable family? Maybe you can even get a bigger surprise than me.
Vid of the Week: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros played 'Home' at NPR's Tiny Desk Concert