Through the 'Oranje Fonds', a foundation that encourages enhancement in society, he was referred to Matchpoint. This is an independent 'social brokers' organization that matches individual volunteers with people who need support or just good company for a short or longer period of time. The projects vary from taking elderly for a walk, coaching youngsters during their studies, giving support with financial administration to teaching immigrants the national language or regularly spending time with disabled people.
Johan decided to discuss the initiative in his organization in Amersfoort where the idea to try to involve our employees was embraced with open arms. Seven varying 'buddy' projects were selected for employees to choose from after which an individual match with a 'partner' in the chosen project is made. Then a specific training or introduction is given to the volunteer as well as a budget of € 500 for a period of three to twelve months in which various activities can be undertaken. After the first introduction in Amersfoort, already 10 employees volunteered to participate in this sympathetic initiative and support from the Community Program was granted.
Marie-Thérèse Awater was one of the first to volunteer and was triggered by two projects, one of which was to undertake activities with mentally disabled people. Matchpoint organized an in-take meeting with Humanitas, the organization who had requested support and a match was made with a 37 year old woman, called Milou. A first 'date' was made and soon two more outings followed. After three years Milou was able to go out biking again, go to the movies as well as do horseback riding for disabled. At first she was shy and not very talkative but already after three dates she opened up to Marie-Thérèse and told her about things that interest her. Both buddies clearly enjoy the outings: Milou because of the fact that someone spends time with her and Marie-Thérèse because being with Milou makes her happy: 'it is really great doing things together with Milou. I am a little sunshine in her life. It is really worthwhile to see her smile when we do something which makes her happy. Milou has stolen my heart.'
Another volunteer is Jantina den Hartog, who participates in two projects: one acquainting an immigrant woman from Venezuela, Zolenes, with the Dutch language and culture and the other taking an autistic man, Gosco out once a month. Jantina is very enthusiastic about the progress she has made with her two buddies and is proud of the trust that she has built up with them: 'not only do I get to see many new places, like various museums, but spending time with these people and hearing about other worlds is very rewarding.'
Many more successful matches have been made in the past two years, most of which are ongoing. Initiator, Johan van der Helm is quite pleased with the way the project has been embraced by so many colleagues: 'the way this project was set up is unique in the Netherlands and is regarded as a pilot project by Matchpoint and the Oranje Fonds. Soon they will decide if our approach will be introduced to more companies.' Hearing the many positive reactions of all parties involved Johan can be quite confident that his structured approach and persistence will inspire other companies to follow his example!