A special day at De Werf

 By Angelique Zucchelli

“Your life becomes better by making other lives better”. Is just what happened to the protagonists of our story after experiencing voluntary…

The first voluntary day for Eni International has become a fact. On Friday December 7th all Eni International colleagues went to an organization called Cordaan. The Cordaan Foundation is an organization who aims to help anyone in need of care, support or assistance. Elderly people with dementia or physical ailments, children and adults with learning disabilities and people with mental health problems from all descent, religion, age or nature of the disability.  They operate in different facilities, but also provide support to many, directly at home.
One of the facilities is called “De Werf”: a living community for many people with an intellectual disability and consists of various residential groups, located in a residential area. De Werf consists of a restaurant, an animal garden, a swimming pool, and a day activity center for the inhabitants. The animal farm is a public farm also for children from the neighborhood.
As our company had the aim to find a sustainable activity where we all could participate at, our HR team started searching for an organization who could accommodate about 45 volunteers in one day. Having spoken with a lot of organizations in and around Amsterdam, we found in Cordaan the right match. Cordaan is a kind of organization I recognized from my personal experience as a volunteer.

A conviviality moment in the so called "De Werf" community of people with intellectual disability based in Amsterdam

A personal experience as a volunteer

As I (my name is Angelique working as HR/HSE Manager) saw a lot of loneliness around me, especially with elderly people, I decided to become a volunteer with an organization called “The Zonnebloem” meaning Sunflower. The Zonnebloem is committed to make sure that elderly and physically disabled people keep participating in the individual society we live in. Many volunteers visit elderly people at home for a simple cup of coffee and a chat. Outings are organized and volunteers join the outings to help out with wheelchairs and such. I started visiting an elderly lady in her eighties, listened to her stories, talked about mine, helped in the garden, took her out for dinner with my family, made memories together. Although this lady had 6 children of herself she very often was alone staring out of the window waiting for someone to talk to. It became a long-term friendship until she died at the age of 94. Personally I can say she and the other elderly people I got to know through this organization have enriched my life.

During the preparation of the volunteer day, after discussing what activities could be done in De Werf, we decided to offer our help for the Christmas decorations in all the structures.
At lunchtime, thanks to the contribution of some of the inhabitants of the neighborhood, both the interior and exterior were decorated and ready for the Christmas holidays. The farm, coloured with Christmas lights, was embellished with a crib, and the restaurant with a large Christmas tree. The swimming pool was also transformed by the magic of this event and a large fir tree was placed in the entrance square to the structure, decorated for the occasion.
Inside, the guests of the structure were engaged, together with some of my colleagues, in the creation of Christmas ornamentations to decorate their rooms.  Others, dedicated themselves to preparing lunch and make coffee, and the day was followed by the bingo game that kept everyone busy for an entire afternoon in the name of sociality and sharing.

Volunteers at the organization "The Zonnebloem" (meaning Sunflower) gathering together for the activities planning

Some of the comments made by our colleagues:

“When we hear the word “disabled“, we immediately think of people who can’t talk or walk or do all those things we take for granted. Taking part in this initiative has opened my eyes to how wrong I’d been all these years. It was one of those experiences that definitely changes your life and your way of conceiving it.
The “Social Initiative Day” was indeed a unique initiative, organised this year by EIBV. I had never had such an experience before. It was a pleasure to decorate the Christmas tree and the surroundings with other colleagues, and it was fun to play bingo games with everyone. I hope this initiative will be repeated every year.
“I really enjoyed myself at Cordaan. The Christmas activities were really appreciated by the volunteers. I’m glad we could do something for everyone staying at Cordaan.  A praisable initiative, which in my opinion should absolutely be repeated every year.
“My opinion on the social initiative is absolutely positive! I really enjoyed spending time with my colleagues doing something nice and useful for others and above all I enjoyed spending time with the exquisite guests of Cordaan (including animals!) and I hope to have contributed a little to making them spend a nice day – at least a little ‘different and better than usual. I am totally in favour of these initiatives and hope that the company will organise things like that again in the future: I consider them to be valid not only for the people and causes we are supporting but also for ourselves, to be more aware of the different problems and realities that exist“.
Summing up this first day of volunteering we can say that we have all spent a memorable day and certainly to be repeated in the years to come. We extend a special thanks to our company for making all this possible.

READ MORE: Christmas for good! by Gabriella Galloro

about the author
Angelique Zucchelli