Renovation of care farm 'Our Pleasure': a real pleasure!

It was love at first sight when Marc Mier Cervantes and Anna Novo, both members of the Your AkzoNobel in the Netherlands (YAN) network, paid an exploratory visit to care farm ‘Ons Genoegen’ (Our Pleasure) in Amsterdam. This care farm is located in the western part of Amsterdam and has a long history full of ups and downs. The present farm was built in 1880 and the situation of the surrounding land is almost exactly as it had been created from the sea back in the 13th Century. Since its renovation in 2001, the farm serves as a place to help people, struggling with social difficulties, like mental or health problems, rehab from drug addiction, etc., reintegrate into society. Also a restaurant is exploited and its earnings are entirely dedicated to the education of its volunteers.

The global YAN association not only offers a networking platform for new employees up to the age of 35; it also encourages them to explore the world of AkzoNobel. For 2015, their three main objectives are to increase its visibility, improve the interaction between its members and make a contribution to their personal growth. Organizing a community event looked like the perfect opportunity to help people in need while combining it with YAN’s ambitions and after visiting the Our Pleasure farm, the match was quickly made.

In the past 3 years, the farm had managed to break even, but the situation could clearly be improved by attracting more visitors to the restaurant. To this end the wooden terraces and sheep stable needed a major renovation and it seemed an obvious choice for our YAN colleagues for their support. In close consultation with the Community Program Staff, it was decided to ask for the expert advice and guidance from our colleagues from Decorative Paints in Amsterdam, who were immediately prepared to investigate the renovation area on the spot. The proper materials/paints were ordered and delivered at the farm and a plan of action was prepared.

On May 26th, 10 YAN volunteers from various locations such as Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Arnhem, Sassenheim and even from Germany, together with 5 regular ‘Our Pleasure’ volunteers assembled at the farm ready to give the terraces and stables a complete new look. After a proper briefing on the use and handling of the materials as well as the areas to be treated, they were divided into 3 groups and work could begin. All participants demonstrated their great commitment and before lunch time, the sanding and first layer of paint had already been completed. During lunch, our colleagues exchanged impressions with the volunteers from the farm while enjoying a nice home-made minestrone soup and sandwiches.

The impression Marc and Anna had when exploring the place was shared by the other members of the team. "The farm itself is a wonderful place with people who create a very friendly atmosphere. We really felt very welcome", said Aleksandra Lichtblau from Decorative Paints EMEA. The weather was helpful in achieving the goals for the day, as after lunch the terraces and stable were sufficiently dry to receive the second layer of paint. Everyone was so engaged with the restoration that the work was finished way ahead of schedule. Since there was some material left, the enthusiastic team decided to expand the initial scope and restored the camping tables in the backyard as well. Satisfaction was definitively the outcome of the day, as was underlined by Joppe Verbokkem: "Everyone was in the best mood and was feeling excited to get more work done which resulted in a great day."

Bart Blauwe, Ons Genoegen general manager, was impressed with the improvements and praised the hard work of all volunteers. Anna Novo from Internal Auditing and one of the coordinators of the project was quite pleased with what had been achieved and said: "This project meant a real good example of Winning Together and achieving one of YAN’s objectives. Also it was great to spend the day in such a beautiful and peaceful location, while being able to help people who really need it. Although, we had a limited amount of time, we managed to get everything done and even more. We also enjoyed spending time with other colleagues and listening to funny stories and comments from the ‘Our Pleasure’ volunteers. It really was our pleasure to help renovate ‘Our Pleasure’!"