Mooiste Bouwreisherinnering 1
06-09-2021

‘I can't explain it: you have to experience it’

Even though it was several years ago, Kees de Rooij, Operations Manager at Stoffels Bleijenberg, still thinks about his building trip almost every day. Together with his co-workers, he helped build a kitchen at a school in South Africa. ‘The children not only came there to get schooled, but also to get food. That made a huge impression on me.’

Kees often heard stories about the building trips organised by the Vebego Foundation. They really spoke to him, and while he wanted to join a trip, he felt responsible for his football club. ‘Outside of work, I’m a football coach,' he explains. ‘The building trips were precisely during the decisive phase of the season, which, as a coach, you don't want to miss.’ He discussed his wishes with the board of the club and was pleased to hear that there were no objections. “Seize the opportunity”, I was told.’ And soon after, he was on a plane with colleagues from other Vebego companies.

Major transition
'It was quite a transition,' says Kees. 'From the luxurious plane trip to the small village in South Africa, in the middle of nowhere. The first thing I noticed was that there was no Internet connection available; that took some getting used to for someone who is normally tied to his phone 24 hours a day for work. Suddenly I could no longer be reached.’ Kees and his colleagues then met the children from the school where they were going to build. Then, too, he realised that he had stepped into a completely different world. 'The children walk - barefoot - for two hours in each direction every day. Their parents not only send them to school for education, but also for meals.

Building with a local contractor
Only, there was no real kitchen. Cooking was done outdoors under a canvas. So, the Vebego Foundation made funds available. And they went straight to a local contractor. Kees: ‘We were there to help that contractor with all kinds of chores, such as making cement and moving stones. In advance, we were given the tip to follow the work pace of the locals. This meant that in addition to the building work, we also had time to play with the kids, for example. As a football fan, I quickly bonded with a boy who also liked to kick a ball around and whose name also happened to be Ajax. We also talked a lot with the teachers and visited local tribes, climbing across the mountains to their homes. Well, basically, small shacks without running water or electricity.’

Never forget
‘What I remember most about this trip? The realisation that in the Netherlands we really live in a world of opulence. The kids there were absolutely delighted with the presents we had brought: for us, simple things like pencils and balloons. While my teenage daughters were at home fussing over the latest iPhone models. And I can't even blame them; that's just how they grew up. That was the hardest part after my return: explaining to those around me what I had experienced there. I can describe it, but you have to see it, experience it and smell it. I certainly never want to forget this experience, and I also set the picture with Ajax as the wallpaper on my phone. This way, I'm still reminded of it every day. I think it is a huge plus for Vebego as an employer that attention is paid not only to business interests, but also to social interests. I’d recommend all colleagues to sign up for a building trip as well.

The project in South Africa has been completed and there will be no more building trips to South Africa. Interested in other building trips? Check out Building Trips

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