The attitude of the Dutch highschool students, aged between 14 and 18, was extraordinary for two reasons. First of all, because the activity was organized within a special school week, which, similar to the Different School program in our country, offered them the opportunity to participate in optionally chosen activities, and these students, instead of going on a trip to Paris, chose to come to Oradea to volunteer and help local needy people. On the other hand, the financial fund required for the program was not paid by the parents, but collected by the students themselves through charity school fairs and other fundraising actions. The money raised was then used to purchase materials for the planned activities, as well as sporting goods and 200 school bags filled with high-quality Dutch school supplies, toys and picture books, which were delivered to Romania before the group's arrival, as part of a humanitarian transport to the Caritas Catolica Association.

The team finally arrived in Oradea on April 13 to begin its one-week humanitarian mission. The first day was dedicated to accommodation and getting to know the place. The Dutch group, which was accommodated in the old Caritas boarding school, visited the Basilica and the Roman Catholic Bishop’s Palace, and on Friday, April 14, they teamed up with local youth volunteers of the Catholic Caritas Association to garden in the courtyard of St. Elizabeth's Nursing Home and to care for the elderly residents.

Half of the group weeded, dug, planted flowers and repainted the elderly's favorite garden bench under the guidance of granny Éva Matyi, while the other half was able to learn from Andrea Nagy, the head of the institution, the right way to operate a wheelchair and to support the elderly with reduced mobility on walks,  so that later they could take out some of the inhabitants of the house for a walk in the closeby park. The activity was extremely successful, and the elderly were delighted to spend time with the Dutch youngsters.

Saturday, April 15, started with a free program:  the Dutch volunteers have visited the Aquapark in Oradea, where they were delighted to try a group Zumba training. This was a good warm-up for the afternoon charity action, when the cheerful team manually produced over 100 sandwiches with salami and cheese, which they later distributed to the beneficiaries of the night asylum for the homeless. The young people were impressed by how grateful those beneficiaries were, who helped them distribute the sandwiches, tried to talk to them and showed their rooms both in the main building and in the living containers in the courtyard of the institution. The activity ended after dark, which provided an excellent opportunity for the team to admire the night lights of Oradea from the lookout point of the so-called Mushroom Hill (Dealul Ciuperca).

On the occasion of Orthodox Easter, the Dutch team held a day of rest on Sunday, April 16, when, instead of volunteering, they admired the natural beauties of creation on a memorable trip to the Veil of the Bride Waterfall and Lake Beliș. Although they were a little surprised when, in search of a toilet, the locals guided them to the base of the trees in the forest, the team was still fascinated by the beauty of the Transylvanian landscapes. They were enthusiastic about hiking and picnics in the pine forest and were particularly captivated by the majestic phenomenon of the waterfall, being that waterfalls are more rare in their home-country.

Volunteers began Monday with a renewed force. In the morning they distributed aid packages with sustainable food among the needy people from Sălacea village, under the guidance of the mayor Béla Horváth, and in the afternoon they carried out playful activities for the residents of the orphanage in Săcueni. The face painting, the board games, the coloring pages and the sports competitions were complemented by the hair braiding program carried out by a young lady of Nigerian origin, a volunteer of the Caritas Catolica Oradea Association, who brought immense joy to the little girls in the children's home but also to the female staff who cares for them. For the Dutch team, lunch with the children and the subsequent football game was an unforgettable experience. 

On Tuesday, the young people had a much more emotionally challenging experience: they were committed to visiting the homecare patients at the Caritas department in Marghita – our colleague Andrea Fezer took the team to some of the patients’ homes she cares for daily, and the young people got emotional on several occasions when faced with unimaginably difficult life situations.

"I was impressed when I visited a blind old lady who told me that none other than the nurse of Caritas had visited her for years. She got very emotional because we talked to her and hugged her and we could not bear it without tears coming to our eyes. I wish all the best to the Catholic Caritas Association so that it can continue to help people in such situations" – said after the visit 15 years old Jet.

"For me, the visit to an elderly lady who had open wounds on both legs for many years due to diabetes was unforgettable. I was able to really empathize with her situation because, although for another reason, I myself have struggled with open wounds on my skin and I know what it means. I am grateful that I met her and was able to be present at the bandaging of this lady's wounds" – said 14 years old Esmee.

The team then spent lunch with the Roma children, beneficiaries of the afterschool program run by the Caritas branch office in Tășnad, to whom they also donated some of the school bags they collected, and then organized to the little enthusiasts long sessions of games and activities that lasted until the afternoon. Although several interpreters were available to help with translation for their interaction, the children were able to connect without words during lunch, they organized themselves very quickly and taught each other dances and fun songs, and laughed a lot during activities, forgetting about all the language differences. For the children of Tășnad, the afternoon spent with the Dutch youngsters was also the last afternoon of the Easter holidays. As many of them pointed out, they could not have spent the last day of spring break better, and the next day they went to school recharged and stocked with cool Dutch school supplies.

Thursday, April 19th was the last day of activity in which the group visited Lucreția Suciu School in Oradea, where many disadvantaged and Roma children are enrolled. Dutch students first embellished the schoolyard with their manual labor: they planted flowers, gardened and painted tree trunks, then distributed school bags and school supplies to children in primary school. The donations they collected in the Netherlands were complemented by school materials from an aid transport brought by the permanent deacon Peter Zidar as donation from Austrian parish communities. The donation was followed by games and joint activities – the students of Lucretia Suciu school were able to lace beads, take part in face-painting and sports competitions organized by teacher Mónika Cuibus. The delegation of Dutch teachers also had a meeting with the headmistress Simona Bocșan. They discussed how Dutch volunteers could contribute to the development of Roma children and the prevention of school dropout.  

On the closing day of the volunteer week, pastor József Rajna, director of the Caritas Catolica Oradea Association, thanked the Dutch team, praising the exemplary attitude and social sensitivity of youngsters, as well as the work of their teachers, who educate young people to respect basic human values. Tamás Szombati-Gille, volunteer coordinator, the main organiser of the volunteer week, awarded certificates of merit to the participants in the programme, giving special recognition to professors Jan De Jong, Karin Vermeulen e/v Boerefijn, Steven Van de Waardt and Marcel Stoutjesdijk, who started pre-organizing as early as last October, then recruited and guided the participating students throughout the whole activity. As they pointed out, the time spent in Oradea will remain an unforgettable experience for all, and in the future they would like to organize annually the week of volunteering in Oradea.