Els Wallenburg and Joost Scholtsz, IHE Delft’s Meet the Dutch Coordinators, have been awarded the prestigious Lid in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau (the King’s birthday honour for service to the community). IHE Delft nominated Els and Joost for this award owing to their loyal, long-lasting service, connecting students to Dutch friends so that they have a home away from home throughout their studies. Els and Joost have acted as coordinators for the Meet the Dutch programme for 10 years, while also being active Dutch friends themselves and for another 20 years as Dutch friends before that.
Meet the Dutch is a volunteer-run programme which connects students who come to IHE Delft from all over the world to local families and individuals who offer friendship and at the same time, introduce them to Dutch culture. Every year, Els and Joost connect approximately 120 students with Dutch friends, keeping in touch with them to make sure things are going well.
Els and Joost were completely taken by surprise when the Mayor, Marja van Bijsterveldt, called them to inform them of the news. They commented, “We had not expected this and it’s great that IHE Delft has acknowledged our work by nominating us for the award. We love the work and the way it connects us to the students and our community of volunteers – that is what motivate us.”
Mayor, Marja van Bijsterveldt said in her speech: ''You have already taken so many students under your wing, gave them a taste of Dutch cuisine and, above all, made them feel welcome. Or, as an ex-student describes: ‘Els and Joost will remain my Dutch family for the rest of my life. In five years in Delft I grew as a person and never felt alone thanks to them. I am grateful to Els and Joost for their friendship and the great work they have done for so many students for so many years. I can't thank them enough for that.'' Read the full speech here.
Eddy Moors, Rector of IHE Delft offered his congratulations, adding “ the work of Els and Joost is invaluable for the students of this Institute, most of whom leave their families and friends back home for 18 months. During the Corona crisis we see more than every how being in contact with local people can help our students get through this tough time. Our student welfare staff are under pressure at the moment and it is really helpful to know that students can have a friendly chat with someone local when they are feeling worried or lonely. The Meet the Dutch programme is extremely well run and Els and Joost have dedicated so much time to this over the years that they definitely deserve to be recognised by this prestigious award”.
New Dutch friends are always needed. Find more information here.