Noelle Kooter, Bright Futures Champion for Howden in Rheden, Netherlands describes an inspirational community based initiative supporting children who have learning difficulties in partnership with De Tender School.
De Tender School is located in Dieren, close to Rheden and provides learning support for children aged 13-18 who have learning difficulties, and as such do not attend main stream educational institutions.
Why did you want to work in partnership with the De Tender School?
We know that the children attending the De Tender School may not have the same access to employment opportunities as other young people due to the fact that they many of them have learning difficulties.
As a result many of the children enjoy learning in different ways, and often creative and practical activities are more impactful. De Tender School takes an approach which is focused on helping the children to develop valuable skills that will become an asset later in life when seeking employment. The teaching staff support them to learn practical skills that would enable them to train as an electrician’s assistant or a plumber’s assistant when they graduate.
How does this project align with Bright Futures?
The aim of Howden’s global volunteering programme, Bright Futures is to make an impact for underrepresented groups in our local communities. Many of the children attending the De Tender School have learning difficulties, and also come from families and communities where poverty and social deprivation are key issues.
In order to participate in the practical learning environment at the De Tender School, the children need protective clothing and equipment such a safety boots and hard hats. Parents are required to buy this protective clothing and equipment, and unfortunately for families with limited financial means this is impossible.
How have you been able to help?
First we decided to hold a fundraising event at the Howden site in Rheden, where we design, manufacture and service the Thomassen range of reciprocating compressors. The Howden team were fantastic and really supported our fundraising activities, helping us to raise over $800. Through the Bright Futures programme, we applied for match funding and Howden doubled this amount. This allowed us to provide the funds to purchase safety boots for all of the first students, and in doing so waiving half of the parental contribution required. The teachers and the parents were absolutely delighted and overwhelmed by the success of the fundraising activities and the generosity of the Bright Futures programme.
What did it mean to you to be able to do this in your community?
It feels great to be able to do some good in the local community, but what I enjoyed the most was having the opportunity to come together with colleagues from different departments – who we might not normally have the opportunity to work with directly.
Coming together to dedicate our time to doing something that will ultimately improve the lives of disadvantaged children, brought us closer as colleagues and I think everyone involved really got a lot out of it.
What will you do next?
We are already planning our next initiative. We are currently co-creating training materials with the teachers from the De Tender School which will allow us to host practical lessons at the Howden factory for the children.
Since donating the funds to the school, we hosted a second fundraising event which raised over $500 and was also matched by Howden. These funds will be used to pay for the field trip to the factory to facilitate the field trip.
By providing opportunities for the children to learn through hands-on experience, we are encouraging them to think about their employability prospects and the type of jobs they may want to take on when they graduate.
For me, this is what Bright Futures is all about. Using the skills and expertise we have within our team to give these children a brighter future through education and skills development.