The moment I set my first step in India in 2000, I felt a deep personal connection to the place. When they think of India, many people will think of poverty and less than hygienic living conditions. However, if you can look past these things, you will find a country, or even sub-continent, of unparalleled beauty. The places are extraordinary, but they pale in insignificance compared to the people, the colours, the culture, the work ethic, and the drive to do better than the previous generation for the sake of the next generation. In a country that faces so many challenges, there are myriad opportunities to be grasped.
I have believed in this country for 20 years, but have had to convince many people to visit and see it with their own eyes. During my national chairmanship of the Dutch Round Table in 2000/2001, I became very closely involved in the establishment and implementation of one of the largest service projects between Round Table Netherlands & Round Table India; Freedom Through Education. This project has given over 1 million children in India the chance to get an education.
After leaving the Dutch Round Table, I have stayed in close contact with India, the network, and my friends there. Inspired by the project, I partnered up with Ashwini Surendar, former President of Ladies Circle International, to set up a new initiative in Bangalore (India) in 2014, called the Jan de Mooij-Ashwini Surendar Tools for Schools Sports Fund. Every year, we support thousands of children by giving sports equipment to schools founded in collaboration with the Dutch Round Table and Round Table India. When we play sports, we tap into our emotions, which gives us the strength and team spirit we need to get the job done.
Contributing to this cause and committing yourself without the expectation of payment is a great thing. I believe that this realisation and my love for this country are the greatest things I could pass on to my own children.
Volunteers are becoming more important in economies all over the world, and although volunteering takes time and effort, it can bring about inner peace and happiness, as well as contributing to communities that need help. Helping your community and your fellow is one of my core values and motivations.
After all, life is not only about material possessions. It is my goal to use this experience to generate awareness and to have other people discover that there is more to life than just going to work every day.