Na een interview van 2 uur met Jo en Truus Schoorlemmer door Mw. Leila B. Salvarerria, verscheen op 16 maart 2014 het volgende artikel in de Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Coming home: Dutch couple back to lend helping hand again
They have been coming to the Philippines for years to enjoy the sun and escape the freezing winter in the Netherlands, but this time Truus and Jo Schoorlemmer are returning the hospitality by helping the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” to get back on their feet.
Through their Heetens HelpGood Center Philippines, the Dutch couple have brought relief, medical supplies and school materials to Leyte and are helping to rebuild and furnish hospitals and health centers around the province.
They also brought a solar-powered charging station for mobile phones, which, Jo noted, has proved useful considering that many areas still do not have electricity.
They are currently helping to build a hospital in Javier town, where they recently stayed for five weeks to distribute relief.
The Schoorlemmers have been working with their friend, Javier Mayor Sandy Javier, soliciting donations of equipment from medical centers in the Netherlands for the hospital they are building, which the town desperately needs.
This assistance is not a one-time thing, the couple said. They will continue to seek and receive donations from the Netherlands for the Philippines, to help in the recovery of the devastated communities, Jo said.
The HelpGood Center has long been serving as a bridge between Filipino communities and the Dutch people and organizations in the Netherlands wanting to send help to the Philippines. It has been collecting donations and delivering them to several provinces, including Camiguin, Mindoro and Quezon, over the past decade.
The foundation is run mostly with the help of elderly volunteers in the village of Heeten, and one of the reasons the donations have been pouring in is its credibility, the Schoorlemmers said.
The couple make sure that they are present to distribute the donations and document the event so that the donors will see that these are properly given to those who need them, Jo explained.
“We show people that the goods come to the right place,” he said.
Immediately after the supertyphoon hit, Dutch television and radio stations went to visit the foundation and started broadcasting calls for donations for the devastated towns and cities, Truus recalled.
The couple also help facilitate a connection between the donors and the recipients. They often return home with many thank-you notes from the recipient communities for the donors from Holland.
Letters to donors
One group that sent school supplies to high school students in Javier asked that the student recipients write back to the donors and tell them about their experience during Yolanda’s onslaught.
“It’s amazing to read these stories,” Jo said.
The couple will take the letters back to the Netherlands when they return home next month in time for spring.
The Schoorlemmers also enjoy touching base with the people they help, and are hands-on in the distribution of food, clothing and other necessities.
They don’t find their age to be a barrier, said Jo, 70, and Truus, 67.
Truus likes to visit the homes of the people they are helping to see how they live and to check if there are other ways in which they can be of help. Sometimes, she said, they learnmore about these people than the local government officials or social workers.
Jo recalled seeing a child who could not walk while visiting the family home. When the couple found out that the child had no means of getting around, they gave him a bed and a trolley.
Interacting with the recipients of the donations is also important for practical reasons.
Some of the donated food from the Netherlands are unfamiliar to the Javier residents, like certain kinds of porridge that have to be cooked in a particular way. The couple taught the residents how to prepare them.
Recognition and awards
The Schoorlemmers’ work has not gone unrecognized. In 2008, the HelpGood Center was one of the recipients of the Kaanib ng BayanAward given by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Other towns have also given them plaques of appreciation or declared them adopted children.
The couple said helping out in the Philippines is a natural thing for them to do because they had virtually adopted the country as their second home.
They first came to help in 1990, when Jo’s brother, Ben, a priest who was assigned here, asked them to donate relief for the Baguio earthquake victims.
Since then, they have been sending donations to several provinces and now have some 150 scholars here. They established the HelpGood Center Foundation in 2001 so that they could more easily send assistance abroad and be able to receive funds.
The couple also love coming to the Philippines to soak up the sun, especially when the temperature drops in the Netherlands and the snow begins to blanket everything.
Their vacations here end up with them spending much of their time distributing the donations they brought, but Truus said it was actually a relaxing experience for them.
It’s not just the sun that is so heartwarming about the Philippines but the people, they said.
“We enjoy the hospitality of the Filipinos. They are very friendly. When they know you, they will treat you just like a family member. Wherever we go, we feel ourselves at home,” Jo said.
Truus actually dreads having to leave after their usual three- or four-month-long trips here.
“I enjoy it every time I’m here. When I leave the Philippines, when I’m in the airport, I feel bad,” she said.
The couple take their love for the Philippines back to the Netherlands. Truus makes sure to share the positive stories about their sojourn in the tropics.
Even then, the Philippines is never far from the couple’s minds.
Once a year, they host a Philippine Day, where a Filipino-language Mass is held, with a choir composed of Filipinos based in the Netherlands. Jo attends the event in his barong Tagalog.
Truus also uses the event to raise more funds for the Philippines. Once, she sold lumpia for 1 euro each, which were sold out in no time.
The logo of the foundation features the colors of the Philippine flag, and the same flag flies above their office in Heeten.
For the Schoorlemmers, being able to help the less fortunate is a blessing.
Many people their age don’t get the chance to do what they do, visiting so many places, meeting so many people and being given a chance to be of help.
“It’s a pleasure for us that we are able to help people. There are many people our age who are not capable of doing certain things,” Jo said.
De stichting||Bron de Stichting||Datum 16/03/2014|