Celebrate Best Buddies Netherlands

Best Buddies Netherlands was founded in 2005 and this year has been a year of many achievements. They received recognition from the Orange Foundation in the form of the “Helffer Kootkar”prize. They were also honored with the “De Gouden Wimpel” award which included a monetary prize from the National Postcode Lottery as well as extensive publicity from RTL 4, a national television station who documented activities of the program for several months and featured the organization in a 30 minute special this past December.

Message from Sigrid Claes, Executive Director:
It is unbelievable that it was five years ago that we started Best Buddies Netherlands. At first, it was just a few individuals who believed in the power of friendship, a handful of willing students and some enthusiastic buddies in a little village in the south of the Netherlands. Here we are now, five years later, and we have a presence in thirty schools. We hope that next year Best Buddies Netherlands will be active in all the provinces of the Netherlands so that all young people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities can experience the joy of friendship with the help of Best Buddies no matter where they live.

What touches me the most from these years is very simple. It has been the people that I have met during my involvement in Best Buddies who dedicate themselves each day to make the friendships work, the young students who make their lives more fulfilling by sharing time with their buddies, and the buddies who are willing to open themselves up to new friends.

Without these people, Best Buddies Netherlands would have never become the organization that we are today. We would never have won the national award. We would have never been featured on Dutch television. We could have never organized our own national leadership training where we trained over 30 young chapter leaders, dedicated to making their chapter a success. Most of all, we never ever would have been able to make so many beautiful, meaningful and warm friendships, so from the bottom of my heart I want to thank everybody for making the past five years, the best five years ever!

One of the milestones Best Buddies Netherlands accomplished this year was the hosting of their very first National Leadership Conference. This is the story of how the weekend played out:

In June of 2009, because of support of a large national foundation, Best Buddies Netherlands for the first time organized a 2 day national Leadership Conference in a hostel in Soest, a centrally located town that all participants could easily reach. All of the current and past chapter leaders gathered to meet each other, participate in a variety of workshops on volunteer management, communication and public relations, and learn how to apply these skills to best run their chapter. Dynamic speakers throughout the conference filled the participants with inspiration to last a lifetime.

The enthusiasm was palpable. Lidian Korenberg, one of the Best Buddies Netherlands Program Managers said, “It was the first time we organized such a great event for all the chapter leaders in the Netherlands, but we are going to do it for at least 50 more years!!” One spirited participant said, “It was very exciting to meet people who are the leaders of Best Buddies Netherlands from all over Holland for the first time and talk about how we can make a difference. It was amazing!”

Along with the formal program, creative activities were devised to bring the leaders together – to bond and to feel that they are interconnected by something larger than themselves. After dinner they were split up into teams, given a special GPS device and sent out into the center of town on a scavenger hunt jam-packed with many silly and unusual tasks – just the thing to bring people together and create a sense of team spirit.

In the morning, the group gathered for a large breakfast as it was already time to say goodbye to friends that became so close, so quickly and forever bound by a shared experience and a shared mission. “It was amazing to see how all the students, that didn’t even know each other in the beginning, became such a close group! I am looking foreword to working together with them to change the Netherlands… to change the world… one friendship at a time,” said Lidian. They returned to their chapters at the start of the year all geared up for a great year – Best Buddies Netherlands’ best year yet!


About Best Buddies

Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

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