BEYOND WRITING: CONVERSATION WITH IRENE DE JONG

The World Writers’ Association (WoWA) is a community of over 800 creative writers from across the seven continents in the world. These writers are the 2020 Global Ambassadors accepted into the programme of the World Literacy Foundation (WLF). As we continue to create a safe place for writers globally, we also want to shine a light on people who are positively changing the world through humanitarian services.

 

A selfless, passionate, and energetic quinquagenarian woman, Irene is developing self-confidence, social skills, and physical skills in children between the ages of 2 and 20 years old through different sports activities. For this edition, we bring you an interview with Irene de Jong. 

 

Keep reading to find out how she has been helping and engaging children across the globe and her advice to everyone.

 

R: Hi, Mrs Irene! How are you today?

Irene: I am fine, thanks! And you?

R: Great! I am cool, thanks

R: For those getting to know you for the first time, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Irene: I am Irene de Jong from Holland. I am a 55 years old woman and happily married to my husband Jos for more than 30 years. We have two sons and a daughter. We are already proud grandparents of 2 little grandsons.

I have been a physical education teacher for more than 32 years now. In the last ten years, I have been a sports coordinator/sports coach working with children from 2-12 years old in Baarn in Holland. I organise and coach a lot of different sports activities for them like football, basketball, lacrosse, rugby, tennis, cricket, badminton, judo, survival run etc. 

Besides that, I am also an enthusiastic volunteer and secretary of the FUN (Football Unlimited Netherlands) Foundation in The Gambia where we are passionately busy building a school and water pump system in Aljamdu.

Moreso, I have been several times in Himachal Pradesh in India to give football training to girls.

R: Wow! You are truly amazing. If this is a little about you, I am wondering how much you have got inside of you.

Irene: Hahahaha! I can tell you a LOT more of course… This is just a little summary.

R: How did you pick up the physical health education teacher and sports coach as your career?

Irene: Since I was a little girl, I was always crazy about doing sports. I was a very active girl full of energy, so I was always outside playing football on the street, cycling, skating, doing all kinds of sports.

So besides a lot of other interests, I was always engaged with sports. Both my parents were teachers, so I decided to study to become a physical education teacher.

In the first period after my study, I worked with children from 12-20 years old in secondary schools. Nowadays I work mostly with children from 2-12 years.

I also have organised all kind of sports lessons for adults. 

Besides all these, I have a second degree, therefore, I am also a pedagogical family counsellor. In that profession, I worked with families who have babies from 0-18 months who were in need.

R: OMG, this is huge!

Irene: Thanks!

R: What inspired you to become a pedagogical family counsellor?

Irene: I love to work with children to improve their living conditions and help people wherever I can. That is also the reason I started to organise personal volunteering projects for children in several countries worldwide.

R: This is interesting! You are empathetic and kind. I love kids also, they are amazing!

Irene: Thanks a lot

R: What would you describe as your greatest achievement?

Irene: That is a difficult question! Biggest achievement…

In my private life, I am joyful and proud with my beloved husband, children and grandchildren.

But besides that, I am glad about the happiness I have given to all the children I have worked with. That gives me a lot of satisfaction! Almost all the children are fond of me, so I am a very “rich” person that I can do the work that I do.

I always try to teach the children that you can do a lot more than you think… Through a lot of different sports activities, I want to increase their self-confidence, social skills and physical skills.

For me, it always has been very important that boys and girls are equal! In all my work I give a lot of attention to that fact: I want to give them the same opportunities and chances in life.

I am very proud of all the volunteering work I organized for children worldwide in the last 8 – 9 years.

That is, for children in an orphanage home in Istanbul, for school children in Morocco, for girls in Himachal Pradesh in India and of course for the children in Aljamdu in the Gambia.

The first 3 projects were my initiative – personal sports projects.

In Istanbul and Morocco, I organized a sports day for the children in which I brought a lot of sports materials and clothes for them.

In Khad in Himachal Pradesh in India, I gave football training to a big group of girls, in partnership with Mr Deepak Sharma, the secretary of the Himachal Pradesh Football Association. It was a fantastic job to teach the girls several technical skills like accepting the ball on your chest and someone passing in action with the ball at your foot. Besides the physical training, I also was able to give them football clothes, shoes, balls and training materials.

R: This is amazing, you are a change-maker!

How did you raise the funds for these projects?

Irene: Among others, I organised several fundraising activities during the last 5 years in my village Baarn in Holland like “Sponsor Walks” and “Jump for India” ( rope skipping event) in several basic schools.

Besides that, I asked all my family, friends, colleagues and network to help me by giving donations.

I always funded myself for the costs of travelling, accommodation, and food because the money donated by others is used for buying sports materials, shoes, and clothes for the children.

For almost 3 years I am an enthusiastic and proud ambassador/volunteer and secretary of the FUN (Football Unlimited Netherlands) Foundation which helps the people of Aljamdu, a village on the North Bank in the Gambia. We are a very small group of volunteers, helping through Education, Healthcare and Sports.

First, we were busy with giving several times football training and providing for a lot of sports materials and clothes. But since 1,5-2 years, we are busy with realising our school project in Aljamdu.

We are building the Aljamdu Lower Basic School which consists of 2 school buildings with 3 classrooms and 1 other room each. Furthermore, we built a new borehole next to the school, a solar energy system and are now busy with realising a kitchen with a canteen and a big school wall around.

R: This is awesome! Thanks for your transparency.

What has been your biggest challenge? And how did it work out?

Irene: The biggest challenge is finding sponsors. I work full time, so it is difficult to find time for all volunteering work…. but I have a lot of energy, so I do my utterly best.

The chairman and founder of the FUN Foundation, Ron Brouwer, is also always trying to find new donors. Last year, I succeeded in connecting with some bigger organisations which help us with funding, like the Wilde Ganzen, YourGiftCards and Join the Pipe.

That made me very happy and proud which in turn helps our FUN Foundation in realising our school project in Aljamdu. We still need more funding for the school wall, but we believe we will find enough good people who want to help us!

R: This is totally amazing. You are a rare gem!

Irene: Hahahaha….. no I am just an ordinary woman who wants to help people/children worldwide who are living in less conditions

R: How do you unwind/relax?

Irene: I relax by being together with my family and friends! I love to be outside so my husband Jos and I love to walk and bicycle together. When there is no Corona pandemic I love to travel around. Our daughter and her Peruvian husband live and study in Argentina and of course, we try to see them once a year- 1,5 years, but that is sadly not possible now.

 And of course, I like to go to Gambia or India for my volunteering projects. But I am always in lack of time… haha

R: Awesome!

Who has been your role model?

Irene: I don’t know…

My parents told me “you have to help each other and be good” and I always have felt the urge to do that. I have a good life with loving people around me, so I feel I am blessed. That is why I want to spend my time and energy to help children worldwide.

R: Interesting!

What will be your message to our audience?

Irene: My message? 

Enjoy your life and be good to others. Live in peace, joy and respect

We have only one world and we have to share everything with each other. We are all human beings and equal, no matter where you live, what colour you have or your gender you are.

R: Yes! We are equal because of our intrinsic human dignity. Thanks so much for your time, Mrs Irene. You are inspiring!

Irene: Thanks a lot Rahmot! You’re welcome and it was a pleasure to share all this with you.

 

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