Dutch philanthropist Jolanda van den Berg to speak at TJC International Day, April 18 | TJC

Dutch philanthropist Jolanda van den Berg to speak at TJC International Day, April 18

In 1995, Jolanda van den Berg traveled from her home in the Netherlands to Peru for vacation with friends, but what she found there completely transformed her life.

Today, more than 20 years later, this Dutch philanthropist has helped more than 1,000 people in Peru; most of whom were too young to care for themselves.

Ms. van den Berg will share her compelling story of rescuing Peruvian children as the featured speaker for TJC’s International Day on Tuesday, April 18. The public is invited to hear her story at 10 a.m. in Wise Auditorium on TJC’s main campus. The event is open seating and there is no admission charge for this unique opportunity, which is a highlight of TJC’s month-long Arts Festival.

Ms. van den Berg is the founder of The Niños Foundation, the organization she formed after witnessing the difficult circumstances faced by the children in Cusco, Peru. During her initial trip, she found many children were neglected or had no family. Children were roaming the streets searching for food and trying to take care of themselves. Only six months after returning home to the Netherlands, Ms. van den Berg packed her belongings and moved to Cusco. 
Dr. Mike Metke, TJC president and avid outdoorsman, originally met Ms. van den Berg in 1999 while traveling to Peru to explore the Lost City of the Incas, the famous Machu Picchu archeological site.


Jolanda van den Berg

“Other travelers told me about this amazing woman named Jolanda who had a hotel and was helping street children,” Metke said. “While she originally came to Peru to see this magical site, she lost all interest in Machu Picchu and focused on the children – which would become her life’s work,” he added.

Metke went on to describe Ms. van den Berg as, “a very self-deprecating person who had no resources and didn’t speak the language, but knew she wanted to do something.” 
In 1998, Ms. van den Berg was able to start her own business, Niños Hotel, with help from a generous donor. When asked about her business plan and prior experience, she was completely honest about having neither, but the donor was so moved by her determination he decided to support her mission, “to create a better life and a better future for as many chanceless and neglected children in and around Cusco as possible.” Soon after opening the hotel, she used the income along with donations from the Netherlands to build the first children’s cafeteria in Cusco. The cafeteria provides free meals for children in a safe environment along with caring attention from the staff.
Today Ms. van der Berg provides numerous services for Peruvian children which include five cafeterias, a sports hall, two libraries, a small cinema and a hacienda with horses outside of Cusco.  Her two public hotels, which support the children’s services, welcome visitors from around the world and provide outstanding meals for patrons. Her hotel is rated by Tripadvisor.com at 4.9 (on a 5-point scale), so visitors are encouraged to make their reservations in advance. The hotels, cafeterias, restaurants and other facilities provide needed jobs for residents of Cusco, and her building projects have created 150 construction jobs for Peruvians.
“Jolanda is the real deal,” Metke said. “One of the things I respect about her is how she treats the kids and protects them. She’s not going to use pictures of kids with sad faces to raise money. She is a classy lady doing amazing things. She provides a place for the children to eat, get clothes and bathe -- which keeps them from being on the streets begging. She also makes sure they get to school which is nearby.”
Dr. Metke added that TJC has donated some items to the Niños Foundation including computers that have been taken out of service due to age or obsolescence, T-shirts left over from events and supplies donated by the TJC Bookstore.

In June of 2016, Dr. Metke returned to Peru to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and was joined by several others including TJC Board of Trustees President Ann W. Brookshire, Board Member Peggy Wagstaff Smith, and Executive Assistant Ellen Matthews.
“We stayed several days at the Niños Hotel in Cusco to help us get acclimated to the altitude before hiking to Machu Picchu,” said Mrs. Smith. “I was so impressed that even in a place where things are difficult, her hotel was such a cheerful, clean and happy place.”
Mrs. Matthews said, “Jolanda’s incredible story will allow students to see what compassion and determination can do. After seeing the living conditions that we can’t even imagine, she took action and now the kids are happy and are getting what they need.”
When Mrs. Brookshire was asked about Ms. van den Berg’s upcoming visit to TJC’s International Day, she said, “Jolanda’s visit to TJC can help bring international awareness of how people can help solve problems.”
In addition to Ms. van den Berg’s presentation, TJC’s International Day will include a full program of cultural events from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Apache Rooms of Rogers Student Center at TJC’s main campus. Music, dancing, fashion shows and other performances will showcase various art forms from numerous countries around the world. To help encourage international travel, The U.S. Passport office will have a table with applications where people can apply for a passport or renew their current passport, and no appointment is necessary. 

Those who attend International Day can visit more than 40 exhibits representing dozens of countries. More than 30 organizations in the Tyler area plan to participate including local schools, churches, service organizations, military groups and others. All exhibits and programs throughout the daylong festivities are open to the public and admission is free.
“International Day is a rich tradition at TJC--one that celebrates various cultures from around the world and their remarkable artistic expression in both the fine and performing arts,” said Dr. Linda Gary, dean of TJC’s School of Humanities, Communications and Fine Arts. “Like the Arts Festival, International Day is TJC's gift to the East Texas community. Schools from all over East Texas bring their students to experience International Day as well as other Arts Festival events, like hearing Jolanda van den Berg and her remarkable story about how an ordinary person can make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others,” she added.
Dr. Metke said he hopes TJC students and visitors to International Day will be inspired by Ms. van den Berg to discover their passion, find their purpose and then take action. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “I’m sure she had setbacks, but she regrouped and moved forward. If it’s on your bucket list to go to the Lost City of the Incas, if you stay with her, your whole experience will be twice as good. You’ll be doing something to help her and the kids but you’ll get so much more,” he added.
Jolanda van den Berg will also speak about her work in Cusco during a private luncheon to be held Wednesday, April 19. For information on this event, contact Ellen Matthews at 903-510-2380.
To learn more about Jolanda van den Berg’s story, go to http://www.stichtingninos.com. For more information on TJC’s Arts Festival events, go to www.tjc.edu/artsfestival.


Jolanda van den Berg


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