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Back row from left to right: Björn Landzaat, Petra Berghuizen, Nico Groot and Jan Engels.
Front row from left to right: Feligine Buena, Laura Berghuizen and Marlouk Berghuizen

Feligine Buena, 25 years old, Chairwoman.

I was born and raised in Bicol, a province on Luzon in the Philippines. In 2007 I was married to a Dutch man and in 2008 I gave birth to our daughter. I come from a very poor family with 8 children and my father earned his living by working the land. That was not enough to afford for all my brothers and sisters to go to school. Often we also did not have enough money for food or medicine.

In 2003, together with my husband, we first came to Marinduque. As I too am a Filipina and also as we have a house on Marinduque, we are very close to the local people, whereby our aid reaches those whom need it most. We try to aid the children to go to school, we give people micro-credit and sometimes we go to the hospital to help the poorest people pay their medical bills. Through our connections we can also achieve a lot at municipal level.

We want to really help these people. Even things that are small for us can mean a huge difference for them. I know for sure that they appreciate our aid.

Petra Berghuizen, 49 years old, Secretary

For quite a few years now I have been going on vacation to the Philippines. This country and its welcoming people have made a vast impression on us. Over the last few years I have become more aware of the hopeless existence of these people. There is education, there is healthcare, there is nutrition, but you need to be able to pay for it. Money is something you only have if you have a job, and that is exactly what people do not have. You see that the most essential things in life remain unattainable for a large group of people.
During the last few years we have modestly tried to offer aid with regard to education and nutrition (see our projects). When you see how grateful people are with the aid (in whatever form it is given) then I am often speechless. More and more the question came to mind: can it not be different, better? I am convinced that it can be different and better. As we have built up a large network of people, we now know what kind of structural aid is needed and how best to provide it.
Whilst staying in the Philippines I have often noticed that it is mostly women whom try in some modest way to take initiatives in order to improve their own lives.
It seems as though the women have a stronger desire to evolve than the men do. Also the higher functions tend to be filled by more women than men. In conversations with local women this is frequently confirmed. By improving their living conditions both they and their children's lives improve.
I think it is important that people become more aware of the fact that you can take your future into your own hands. Sometimes you are presented with an opportunity and if you grab onto that opportunity then you will be in a position to change your own life! I want to give them an opportunity!
I am convinced that the lines need to be kept short in order to ensure that the aid directly reaches those whom need it most and I am convinced that we can achieve this. In the course of this year we hope to establish a Hearts for the Philippines foundation on Marinduque, so that our projects can be realized properly.
On myself, as well as on the other members of management, rests the mission and challenge to ensure that we here can raise the funds to finance these projects.
Only through self-development the people of this beautiful country will be able to evolve and only then will the poverty and this hopeless situation diminish. They need help and we can offer that aid to them.

I believe this with my whole heart.

Laura Berghuizen, 23 years old, Treasurer

In the summer of 2000 I went to the Philippines for the very first time. In the beginning everything was unknown and exciting. When we arrived it was dark, it was raining hard and I was not at ease. Now, ten years and eight visits later, as soon as I step out of the aeroplane and feel the tropical warmth and smell Manila smog, it feels like I'm home.
Over the years we have gotten to know so many nice, kind and interested people. When driving through villages on Marinduque, people come out of their homes to greet us and children run after the car laughing and waving their arms. We have been inside many of the house, as so many people have invited us into their homes. It is astonishing to see how what some of the homes look like inside. It is small, dark, but always neat and tidy. That is not surprising, because for 7 persons to be able to live in such a small space, everything has to be neat and tidy. All the important and valuable gifts they have ever received from loved ones are proudly placed in a special cabinet in full view. Often the gifts are still wrapped in gift paper or foil.
I have not seen only nice and kind people. Because I am studying fiscal law as well as notary law naturally I am also interested in the Philippine legal system. There is a court of law on Marinduque where I spent an hour attending a hearing. It was very different to how things are done here in The Netherlands. In one hour about six cases were heard. Some of the cases were brief and within less than 5 minutes they were suspended for a few more months. Proceedings can take quite some time before a decision is reached. After the hearings I visited the local prison. When I arrived the prisoners had just been let out into the yard, so I sat there talking to the head prison warden amongst the prisoners. A short while later the prisoners were sent back inside. I asked if I could have a look inside the prison. They thought it was rather strange that I wanted to go inside the prison, as normally no one wants to go into a prison. Even the pastor, during his weekly visits, only speaks with the prisoners outside in the yard. When I went inside and after my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I was quite shocked with what I saw. About 15 prisoners were sitting in a small room of approximately 25 cubic metres. There were two of these small rooms. This was the provincial prison, where prisoners are kept while waiting for the judge to decide their sentence. As mentioned before it can take a long time before it becomes clear what their position is going to be. A few of the prisoners had spent two or three years in these pitiful conditions waiting for a decision to be made in their case.
When I asked the prisoners what they were being charged with, all sorts of crimes were mentioned, such as theft and drug offences, but also horrendous crimes such as murder, rape and mutilation. Once I heard that, I took a step or two further away from them.
The most stirring to me, was a young boy of maybe 12 years of age that had been kept prisoner because he was accused of raping a 6 year old girl. This could have been a result of all the violent and sexual video clips that can even be seen on Philippine television.
Although most of those prisoners have obviously done something wrong which cannot simply be talked away and should be in prison, I am of the opinion that some of the crimes would not have happened if the level poverty in the Philippines was not as bad as it is. People are sometimes murdered for a small amount of money. Or people try to forget their (financial) troubles and go out drinking, and thereafter commit crimes in their drunken state.
I hope that our foundation can contribute by bringing a structural decrease in the poverty level, whereby possibly additional victims may be prevented. When the people have a better life and have the opportunity to work towards a better future for themselves and their families, then possibly in the long term they will be able to make a difference in the development of their country. I want to give an opportunity to the people, who have the potential to realize a better life, and I want to encourage them to grab onto this opportunity, because they have earned it.

Jan Engels, 56 years old

I was born and raised in Amsterdam. We didn't have a large house and I know from experience what it is like not to have a lot of money. Meanwhile through hard work I have managed to build up my own company. A few times per year I stay on Marinduque and have grown to know many people there. Poverty reigns even today on the Philippines and I find it often difficult to see how hard peoples lives are over there.

I was born and raised in Amsterdam. We didn't have a large house and I know from experience what it is like not to have a lot of money. Meanwhile through hard work I have managed to build up my own company. A few times per year I stay on Marinduque and have grown to know many people there. Poverty reigns even today on the Philippines and I find it often difficult to see how hard peoples lives are over there.

Björn Landzaat, 33 years old

I am employed as a gym teacher at a primary school and as a fitness instructor. Next to that I am studying physiotherapy. A few years ago I went to the Philippines for the first time.

What struck me was the kind and very attentive people whom were willing to share what little they had with you. Whenever we managed to get stuck in the mud during one of our trips in the car, people would emerge from nowhere to come to our aid. Whenever you are in a village you are always welcome to visit any random person and they will do their best to feed you with banana, cakes or other delicious snacks that they happen to have at the time. You are made to feel at home very quickly in this friendly country.

What really is pitiful is that people are so busy with today that they do not have time to think about tomorrow. Studying is something only a few can afford and therefore so much quality is lost. Because they do not think about the future, they do not evolve and I find it very sad to see. When the people finally have a little money to spend then they finally get some peace of mind, until it is gone. This is how it remains a circle and they cannot break out of it. I hope that with our foundation's projects we will be able to help break the circle.

Marlouk Berghuizen, 22 years old

I am a 4'th year medical student in Groningen and have started my internship this year. When I was 12 years old I went to the Philippines for the first time. I had never even heard of the Philippines before, but after a few weeks of touring around, I lost my heart to this country and its people. I have grown to know many good people during the last few years on Marinduque and saying goodbye gets harder every time. It is not only amazing to be on Marinduque but also in Manilla. The pace of life and the traffic and the amount of people living there and trying to survive is what I find so fascinating.

The Marinduqueños are unbelievably nice and always wanting to show things to us. This is how I came to be present during a birth in a hut, which is naturally unbelievably primitive, but which due to my background I find very interesting. The difference with The Netherlands is considerable.

I am glad that my parents took me with them to the Philippines and that I now know what poverty is and I am glad that I can aid these people in this way. I do not like to just give money, because I never know for sure if it reaches the right people, thanks to our foundation I know that our aid reaches the right people.

Nico Groot, 19 years old

When I first went to the Philippines in 1999 I was still very young. Obviously touring through the jungle and swimming in the sea I found really amazing back then. But even at a young age I noticed the warmth of the Philippine people.

After a few return visits on Marinduque, my love for the local people has only grown. Since we are constantly in touch with so many local people we get to see just how nice, attentive, welcoming and affectionate they are. Lots of the friends that I have made over the years I have come to regard as family. I would be lying if I said that I did not feel as if I was a little bit Philippine.

Along with the friendly people we also regretfully notice a lot of poverty. Children with torn up T-shirts (that had already been worn before by their 5 brothers/sister). Very primitive little huts. No possibility for education or very limited (a good education is not an option most people have). And children that look like they are severely undernourished. These are only a few examples of that you regretfully see quite often in the Philippines.

Presently there are already many aid organisations and that is obviously very good. Nevertheless I have my doubts as to whether the aid is properly spent. Because we have many local contacts, I know for sure that within our foundation all the aid goes to people that really need it! Through our specific and direct aid I am convinced that the foundation is going to bring about a real improvement for the people in the Philippines!

Just a short note about myself. In my daily life I am studying Interactive Media (Hogeschool van Amsterdam). Hereby I mainly create websites and I have used my expertise for the foundation. My main duty in the foundation is maintaining this website.

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