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By: Orquidia. Valenzuela,  as reported by Myrla Danao
Tue 11th January 2011

Businessman Jaap van Dijke, chairman and two board members, Myrla Danao and Dr. John Deen of Con Amor foundation in the Netherlands visited the Philippines on October. 29 until November . 9, 2010.  The two Dutch gentlemen were accompanied by their wives, Sylvia Lagerwaard and Helga Deen. This was the first visit in the country of the two Dutch couples.

The purpose of the visit is to learn and gain more insight about the different projects and institutions that the foundation supported the previous years. The board members were eager and interested to get acquainted with the people and volunteers behind the projects.

Wasting no time after landing in Manila and depositing their luggage at their hotel they were fetched by Cindy R. Valenzuela, a former bank executive who now  volunteers her time for non-government humanitarian projects , among them SIBOL and CNS-PCMC. The group was taken first to Don Manuel Village in Quezon City where Gawad Kalinga, a non-government organization, built houses for the very poor and set up the SIBOL pre-school (kindergarten) project for the children in the village.

The children, teachers and volunteers in SIBOL were ready to welcome their visitors in their “classroom,” a room in the Barangay (village) building that the officials made available for their use. The children presented a program for their Dutch guests, opening it with their greeting, Thank You Con Amor. But, before the start of the program they prayed.
SIBOL children, Behind - teacher Minda, H Deen, J Deen, J van Dijke, M Danao, S Lagerwaard, C Valenzuela, SIBOL volunteer
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SIBOL children pray before start of lessons
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SIBOL children during lessons

“Wat zijn ze mooi,” (how beautiful they are), remarked one Dutch member as they watched them.

These children are well behaved, spontaneous and most of all very respectful when talking to older persons,” one board member observed. One child immediately felt so attached to Dr. Deen that she clung to him the whole time they were there.

The guests were invited to share a native lunch of pansit luglug and calamansi juice. They were touched by the warm reception and hospitality accorded to them.

They also noticed that the children despite the scarcity of the basic necessities in life appear happy. They are neatly dressed in their school uniform which was provided for this school year by a generous person. However, comparing them to European children of their age “they are too small,” they noted.

Aside from Con Amor, countrymen in the Netherlands and Belgium contribute from time to time to the SIBOL project. These contributions enable SIBOL to continue the program. Financial donation is needed for the purchase of educational materials and children’s basic needs (uniforms, bags, shoes, raincoats, etc.), feeding program for the children, teachers’ salaries, classroom maintenance, etc. Cindy takes charge of the donations received from the Netherlands for SIBOL. The board members expressed satisfaction when given a detailed financial statement.

Next in the Dutch agenda was the visit to the convent of the Heart of Mary Villa of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Quezon City. They were met by Sr, Lorenz who showed them the initial construction going on in the new building. Asked if the convent has enough resources to finish the work, the sister replied that the  babies need a home and they do not give up hope that benevolent persons will come to their aid. Our vision is, “Let’s work together in transforming the lives of women and children,” she said full of determination.
J van Dijke, H Deen, M Danao, S Lagerwaard, Sister Lorenz, C Valenzuela
Sister Lorenz of Heart of Mary Villa
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L-R- M Danao, C Valenzuela, Sister Lorenz, Behind-Dr Deen
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Heart of Mary Villa-L-R Cindy Valenzuela, Myrla Danao and Sister Lorenz

The group was shown a video of the typhoon devastated building they occupied before but had to abandon. Then, Sr. Lorenz took the group to the nursery. Here the group witnessed the love and professional care the babies are given.

In Manila also, Cindy took the Dutch group to Child Neuroscience Center, Philippine Medical Center (CNS-PCMC). The Center is a non-government, non-profit institution and accepts as many grave and urgent cases as they can accommodate from impoverished families who urgently need medical assistance but cannot afford to pay.
Child Neuroscience Center, Philippine Medical Center
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Child Neuroscience Center, Philippine Medical Center
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Child Neuroscience Center, Philippine Medical Center

A team of specialists met the Dutch visitors and took them on a tour of CNS-PCMC showing some patients and explaining their cases. During the meeting the high-caliber of the specialists did not escape Dr. Deen’s attention. CNS-PCMC has a team of specialists (neurologists, surgeons and cardiologists, etc.), and others in the medical and non-medical field. They are connected to prestigious hospitals and/or offices, all professionals who after their work give hours of service to the Center. Others like Zeny Villar who was with Cindy in accompanying the Con Amor group, find ways and means to help keep the Center running. They are volunteers.

Again, as a gesture of Filipino hospitality the guests were invited to a merienda.

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Handicraft project in Lupao-Nueva Ecija
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Lupao-Nueva Ecija with Myrla Danao
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Preda gate poster-Olongapo
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Preda project-Olongapo

It was a non-stop travel for the Con Amor board members that took them to several projects in Manila, Olongapo City, Nueva Ecija; and in Davao, Samal and Panabo.
Dinner tendered by couple Danny and Cindy Valenzuela

After a 10-day busy itinerary the van Dijke’s and Deens were finally able to spend a day of leisure before returning to the Netherlands the following day. Cindy served as guide for Helga and Myrla in their shopping while Cindy’s husband Danny Valenzuela accompanied the couple van Dijke for a game of golf. Dr. Deen opted to be left behind and rest. Later in the evening, Danny and Cindy gave a farewell dinner in their home for them.

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