Our team

Maaike van Leeuwestijn – Chairperson

My name is Maaike van Leeuwestijn, 42 years old, residing in Apeldoorn. In 2016 I visited The Gambia for the first time and I have fallen for the charms of the country. The people, the atmosphere, nature and culture made me revisit The Gambia at any opportunity I had. In March last year (2017) I decided to commit myself to the foundation Care for Natural first as an ambassador. Especially the goal of self-reliance appeals to me very much in the foundation. Together we try to offer families in The Gambia a better life, a life with future prospects. In the meantime I have developed other projects for the Gambia myself and met more people who are committed to different projects. All with the same passion: helping the people in this beautiful little country in Africa!

Hermy Groot Kormelink – Ambassador

I’m Hermy Groot Kormelink. I do have 2 daughters and I am grandmother of 4 grandchildren. I have been working at the VU for 20 years as an actor with medical students, how did I get to know Claudette? That was a nice coincidence. I was visiting her aunt who told me about Claudette and her foundation. This was certainly not the first time she told me these wonderful stories. It was very crazy, but at that moment I decided to immediately book a holiday to The Gambia, with the mission to visit Claudette. What I saw and experienced with Claudette was unbelievable. This woman was put on this earth to do this work. But 24 / 7? I don’t know, but she does! In short: Claudette has grabbed me, as a person and especially because of her commitment to the poor women in Gambia. I have already booked another trip for this year. That says a lot about me, believe me.

Jip Scherpenzeel – General Board member

After seeing how the Foundation and Claudette work to create opportunities and stimulate sustainable development for people and nature, I didn’t have to think long about taking over the position of interim Secretary from Brigitte den Ouden, now taken over by Ellen Stokman. Just by looking at what people themselves need, how to give not the fish, but the fishing rod, is a starting point that I fully support. It is therefore with great pleasure that I take up this position and I hope that together we will be able to achieve many fine things in the coming year.( Redaction : Jip worked in our office in the Gambia and achieved finding sponsorship for our Aloe Vera Burntreatment Centre for Children. She also executed the project, the construction, the Aloe plantation, within a matter of months, helped creating protocols and numerous trainings. She managed to get us operational within 8 months and is actively coaching the staff with treatments, keeping their records, their patient photo files, reporting correctly and objectively, always upgrading their level of professionalism, etc. This lady is a miracle worker ! )

Marja Salverda – Ambassador

Until 1 November 2011, I was owner / director of the organisation Zorgmaatwerken after the merger with In Hoofdzaken (part of the Kwadrantgroep), where I remained director. This is an organisation that offers psychiatric diagnostics, treatment and training in home counselling in Friesland and the Noordoostpolder and since November in North Holland South. In The Gambia we have been providing training for medical personnel and training on the job for 3 years. My husband Wim mainly does these trainings and the other employees support this. Wim is a communication and training actor and works on his own in Friesland and especially in the Randstad.

We are committed to Care for Natural. Claudette is a special woman with an enormous energy who has a nice sober look and is very much in line with our vision on “what to do in the Gambia” With the big difference that Claudette does it! Day in day out.

The products that are manufactured are of exceptional quality and Wim has been using the Aloe Vera for years now and can no longer do without it (and so have I) Given the sales in Friesland, this is not only his experience……………………………

Mara de Kort – Ambassador

As a food technology student I came to the Gambia for the first time in 2013 to do a 4 month internship.Never having been further than Spain and on my own, that was quite an experience. I was looking forward to it, but I didn’t know what to expect, but the months have been incredibly fun and fast. My assignment for Care for Natural African Beauty Foundation was to explore the possibilities of developing a product for malnourished children with local ingredients. With the help of Claudette a nice product came out of this, but in order to be able to produce it in the end a lot of work is needed and it was logical to stay with the foundation to help Claudette with that. That is why I am now ambassador of the foundation to send more students to the Gambia to carry out the many assignments there and of course for a great experience.

I couldn’t really imagine that I would want to go back to the country more often, but I made a mistake. I’m definitely going back to Gambia! ( Redaction: Mara came back as a volunteer after she has graduated. She made a remarkable difference in setting up the entire HACCP system ( Hazard Analysis Critical Control Program). Mara did this in an incredible efficient and creative way observing the fact that most employees are incapable to read. A magnificent number of documents and work instructions were created by her. We are super proud to be able to work according to  Euopean Safety Guideline which we try to execute to the best of our ability. Mara has proven more than an ambassador. During her time here she has been my rock, always willing to listen, in for me, on personal grounds, a very troubled time that made my world shake. I personally will be forever grateful to Mara and her input. Her final research report is still always on my desk. It’s a unique and valuable piece of work.

Peter van Velzen – General board member

In 2007 I visited the Gambia for the first time and I was immediately devoted to the beautiful culture and lifestyle of the Gambians. The years that I went to the Gambia, I wanted to experience the real Gambian life a bit more and I decided to stay in a local guesthouse instead of in a hotel.

In the Netherlands I started working as a programmer and webdesigner and I noticed that the owners didn’t have the means or the money to promote their guesthouse on the internet with a website. I then decided to create a website for them.

In 2009 I met Peter and Brigitte and they told me about the Foundation and what things have already been done by the Foundation. The following year I met Claudette and I was able to see how she works for the Gambian people and with how much dedication she does her work. After that I became more involved with the Foundation and I started to help with the management of the website and the promotion of for example social media.

Peter & Brigitte den Ouden – Ambassadors

Peter is where Brigitte is . And where Brigitte is there’s Peter. Always together with the thought together is more fun, better, cosier! Their first holiday to Gambia was in 1994 where they met Claudette  and since then Gambia is part of their lives! For years they have been involved in guiding small self-employed people in Gambia and they help with advice and action wherever possible. Since then they have also been in contact with Claudette, then the Chairperson of the Care for Natural Foundation, which means a lot to the Gambian people and therefore also to Peter & Brigitte! That is why they enjoy dedicating their time, thoughts and efforts as ambassadors for the Foundation! In this way Peter and Brigitte hope to contribute to a better future for many families in Gambia helping with the management of the website and promoting the website via for example Facebook

Ivonne Hilgers – Treasurer

My name is Ivonne Hilgers. I do work for KLM and live, together with my husband Nico, in De Zilk, near the Keukenhof. Through a colleague at KLM we met Claudette in 1989 or so. After years of intense friendship, my husband and I waved Claudette goodbye Claudette when she decided to live permanently in The Gambia in 1995. We experienced the development of the Gambia since then. The first time we visited Claudette and David (here husband) we arrived and departed from  the old airport, there were no street lights and certainly no tarred roads and Claudette and David had though issues to deal with. We have been in The Gambia several times now but sometimes we skip a few years. Our friendship conquered mountains and ocean, our contact has always remained. In the past through Skype and nowadays through the use of WhatsApp. When we go back to The Gambia it is extra interesting to see all the new developments in terms of infrastructure and expansion of tourist areas. To see all the developments of the Foundation Projects is fantastic, it’s a pleasure to take part in this.

Claudette Krook – Founder / General board member

I’ve been captured by the Gambia and by David,  since 1994. Due to a combination on happy and sad factors present in my live then, I gave up my much loved job as passenger handling officer at KLM and left for the Gambia. Eversince I have been living officially and continuously in The Gambia. In 1996 we got married. We have a daughter, now a beautiful mature young women. I was employed at first in a hotel as a quality control and public relation officer… then salary failed to be paid, thus i left. I spend some months at a supermarket wholesale company, after which i helped my husband in a food processing factory. It helped me to get to know the Gambia from within.  In our own compound in Kololi I started making yoghurt, ice creams, etc. My inspiration and teacher was DavidS grandmother who has dedicated her life to raising her family as a widow with 8 children and later to help all those around her, by making yogurt which she would freeze to ice yogurt. She offered to teach me how to make the yogurt. This way i was able to create a few jobs. As many know it got a bit out of hand, we are now producing some 60 products. I like to see obstacles as challenges, not as problems. Light has always fascinated me. The power of light in the darkness. I wish to be a little light, together with all those other lights and make the darkness subside…

Ellen Stokman – Secretary

Another life in Gambia.

Let’s introduce myselve ! My name is Ellen Stokman, mother of three sons (25, 26 and 29) and since November 2018 I work with great pleasure as a volunteer for Care for Natural in Gambia.

On the morning of April 8 my life collapsed when I found my husband lifeless next to me in bed. Just like that, suddenly, away, past… The future ceased to exist!

Now, two years later, I know that my life will never be the same again. Loving doesn’t stop when the love of your life is gone. During a holiday in Gambia the idea arose to give my life a different direction. A life without Jeroen, a life to which I have to give a new and meaningful interpretation. Once in the Netherlands I started to study organizations that run volunteer projects in The Gambia. I visited several meetings and ended up at Care for Natural via a tip from Maaike van Leeuwestijn. I visited the foundation and participated for a day to get a taste of the atmosphere. I was enthusiastic and felt something of joy again, my decision was made. I was going to do it! Five months to Gambia to find out what else life has in store for me…

By now the five months are almost over and I feel very happy in doing what I do at CFN in Kololi (and the inspiring and always busy Claudette is certainly to blame for that!). The work is varied and above all very challenging. Every day here is a surprise! I look forward to every working day, wondering what will happen next! My work is different every day. Sometimes I assist Claudette with a burn treatment, other times I design a folder for Care for Natural. And in between there are hundreds of other jobs to be done, varying from guiding tourists on Mariamakunda to updating patient files, from making a film about CFN’s activities to preparing a presentation for Cuban doctors, from co-managing nursing students to brainstorming about the design of the exhibition stand at the International Trade Fair. And since this week I have been appointed secretary of the foundation Care for Natural. In short, I am so busy here and so happy that I decided to extend my stay here until the end of July, then return to the Netherlands to visit my three sons and then go back to The Gambia for a longer period of time. CFN is not rid of me yet! The Gambia is getting more and more on the map. Even here in our village there is a project for schoolchildren in The Gambia, and the commitment that Claudette has given, and still gives, to the animals and people in The Gambia is enormously admirable. Without expecting anything in return and with unbridled dedication she continued to support people and animals financially or with medical care. Women can learn a profession with her, children and adults can go to her with their burns and do that regularly, stray dogs or cats can get a good home with her or she makes sure that they get a good home. She also takes care of employment with the foundation. And despite all the setbacks she has experienced over the years, she has continued to fight and believe in the good of mankind. We are proud to be able to call her our friend, for at least 23 years now. I am now taking over the Pennership from Rien Been and hope in this way to be able to contribute to all the charities that my best friend knows how to conceive and execute time and time again.

In Memoriam Lonneke te Kamp 30-10-1982 – 29-12-2011

What appeals to me are the developments, improvements. And inventions that have already been achieved and are still being achieved. All this together with the local population! With patience, respect and understanding for his or her level, new products are being developed. Jam, cream, oil, tea, yogurt or cheese are also made in the training center. In short: there is an eye for training, cooperation, making use of what nature has to offer, new ideas / developments, respect, growth, appreciation, learning what self-esteem is, etc. Everything that encourages me to fully integrate myself as an ambassador set up for this foundation. As our logo reads: Together on the way to tomorrow.

Lonneke passed away in December 2011, despite her horrific, violent disease ( breast cancer) she radiated light like no other. Lonneke’s love and passion for people was so enormous and pure, that she will live on forever here in The Gambia in the hearts of those who ever came across her !! No matter how short that contact was. She’s a hero, an angel who lived too short but so intense.

I personally thank Lonneke for the love and inspiration she spread .

Rest in eternal peace my little sister.

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