I got an Irish passport this year. I'm originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, so I had a UK one before. Despite having lived in the Netherlands for 30 years now, Brexit was going to make my life so difficult that I decided to switch. So now I'm Irish. That's just possible. The idea behind it is that if you were born on the island, you are entitled to it.
A true war raged in Belfast in the 1980s. The city was half Protestant and half Catholic. There was a lot of poverty. There was violence. The IRA was active. I knew all those guys who were members of it. We lived in one of the poorest streets in the city. Three quarters of my friends were teenage mothers. You get it, not ideal for a child.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to leave. This won't work, I thought. My opportunity came when I was 15 years old. There were programs for young people to spend a summer holiday abroad. That is how I ended up here in the village. I loved the peace and quiet and made friends quickly. Since the summer of 1985 I came back every year. Thirty-six years have passed and I am still here!
In Belfast I cared about the neighborhood kids. They always followed me around. We’d go swimming together, or we played soccer... There were no cars, so the street was ours. That's how I learned to take care of people, something I still do today.
My partner and I have a family care home. As a family, we take in children for longer periods of time who cannot live with their own parents. We now have five. One of our own children still lives here as well. It's hard work and truly full-time, but we love it. Our children are traumatized but also lead as normal a life as possible.
I don't judge quickly when a mother has to give up her child. It’s often pure impotence with a long backstory. If the kids can go back to their own parents after some years, then that's a victory for us. Everyone deserves a second chance in life. Just like I got, here in Hazerswoude.