media release

Back to School

An empty office building at Akzo Nobel’s Arnhem HQ has been transformed into temporary classrooms for 90 schoolchildren.

An empty office building at Akzo Nobel’s headquarters in Arnhem, the Netherlands, has been transformed into temporary classrooms for 90 children from a nearby school which was recently ravaged by fire.

The blaze completely devastated the infants' classrooms at the Jozef Sarto primary school, destroying teaching material, desks and chairs and leaving the children without anywhere to take their lessons.

“Everything was either fire-damaged or could no longer be used,” explained Wilma Berndsen, who teaches the first and second year children. “But what was really heartbreaking was that the children’s folders with their work and photographs also went up in flames. They are things that can’t be replaced.”

She added that the mother of one of her colleagues knew someone at Akzo Nobel and explained the situation to them. Help was immediately offered and within two weeks, one of the company’s old buildings was given a complete makeover.

Temporary walls were erected and a separate entrance onto the site was made for parents and children. Children’s drawings now adorn the windows and there are tiny desks and chairs in the makeshift classrooms.

“We have had help from all quarters. It’s been really fantastic,” added Berndsen. “The parents have helped to clean and arrange the classrooms and new furniture was supplied within two weeks. That’s unbelievably fast.”

At the beginning of February, a fund-raising event—including a toy and book fair—will be held to help replace articles that were not covered by the fire insurance, such as a video recorder and a television.

The children moved into their new temporary base last week and are expected to stay in the Akzo Nobel building for at least six months while the classrooms at the Jozef Sarto school are renovated.