A normal life for mentally restrained youngsters

What seemed almost impossible in the first place has turned into a very successful project. Some 25 volunteers from Car Refinishes and Decorative Paints in Sassenheim spent more than 200 hours in their own free time to build housing for animals at Ferm Rozemarijn, a new center where young mentally restrained people are offered the possibility to live on their own and to function properly in society.

The living complex was just about ready when Theo Eijkmans from Local Services in Sassenheim came in contact with the responsible managers of Ferm Rozemarijn in Haarlem. He was impressed by the philosophy of the center that houses 30 children and young adults. They are divided in three groups and housing units (from 16 to 23 years old). One group (most of the youngest) is totally dependent on 24 hours care. The others are partly independent or totally independent but with the restriction of a certain amount of supervision. Among these children four families are willing to live at the premises and help the children running a normal life as much as possible.

The inside of the new housing was ready, but the outside grounds lacked proper opportunities to meet each other in a relaxed way. The plan was to have a number of animals to this purpose, like pony’s, chicken and rabbits. However, the necessary shelters for the animals were lacking. Theo immediately thought of the Community Program and, together with his colleague Wout Versluis they took up the challenge and asked for support. This was granted but then they needed more resources to perform this major job of building horse stables, a riding facility, housing for the smaller animals as well as the adjacent fences and proper brick flooring.

They made an appeal on their colleagues on the bulletin boards and in no time they recruited an enthusiastic group of 25 volunteers. All were prepared to take holiday time off and the planning was made. Then the necessary materials were bought and a contractor was hired to do the foundation work for the pony stables. It started with digging, a lot of digging! Fortunately the gardeners of the Sassenheim site offered to help, not only with professional advice but also with their mechanical equipment.

The entire job took about 8 weeks, sometimes in typical Dutch (rainy) weather. It took a lot of courage but the end result was quite satisfactory for all involved. ‘It was a job with a high physical strain for all of us’, said Theo. Added Wout: ‘Especially the choice for sustainable materials made it heavier, but it has made the end result much better than expected. That gives an additional good feeling with all involved volunteers. It was a good experience for the volunteers, but also for the inhabitants of Ferm Rozemarijn. I am sure that this will certainly not be our last project.’