A couple of years ago, Derk and Hanka Oosterveld from The Netherlands felt the desire to help teenagers who hadn’t been given a fair chance with skill development. Boys and girls who, because of poverty, difficult home-situations, handicaps or problems at school, are being left behind. When Johan and Astrid told them that Victory4All wanted to start something for precisely these kinds of young people, the decision wasn’t a difficult one: they were going to South Africa!
There’d no longer be a place at school for the students of Rainbow Centre who had turned eighteen. To prevent these precious young people from being left behind, Derk and Hanka started the Skills Centre. Here, youngsters are trained in different areas: basic life skills, social skills and resilience. How do you find a job and how should you behave at work? And more importantly, their relationship with Jesus, so they know that He is their shepherd and that He takes care of them.
This all goes hand in hand with learning practical skills: the young people get the chance to discover what they are good at and what they enjoy. For example, woodwork, computer lessons, gardening, washing cars, catering and cleaning. The goal is to find matches between participants and local businesses, to get them to work there.
After a while it became clear that a job couldn’t be found for some of the youngsters. Such a pity, because they have so much to offer! Derk and Hanka, ever so creative, started thinking of a plan. Which Dutch product would sell well in South Africa? They soon landed on stroopwafels, a round cookie with a rich caramel-syrup in the centre. So Derk created a tiny factory in their kitchen, aiming to figure out the very specific recipe. The first few batches failed, but when they eventually figured out the perfect recipe, stroopwafel bakery Soete Swaan (literaly: sweet swan) was born!
They decided to aim at coffee shops, farm stalls and supermarkets, which pretty quickly turned out to be a great success! The stroopwafels can now be bought all over the country. There’s even a client from Zambia and we’re currently sending a sample to Mauritius!
Nowadays Derk and Hanka lead Soete Swaan from The Netherlands. Derk maintains contact with the suppliers and the resellers, always looking for a better deal for the ingredients and packaging. They recently switched from margarine to butter, which improved the flavour significantly!
Deidre is the production manager who leads the team in Humansdorp. She is very eager and hardworking and motivates the youngsters daily to strive at achieving their goals. She is also like a mother to them. They are all boys and girls with problematic backgrounds and special needs, but she embraces and coaches them with such love and patience.
Derk: “When I look at everything that’s going on, it brings tears to my eyes. These guys are so proud to have a real job and have become so much more self-confident, because they feel they matter and add value to society. It’s a concept that works: we’re offering these guys something that will help them all their lives long.”