Hennie de Groot-Heupner – 69 years old

My name is Hennie. I live here in Poptapark. I am retired, but I still work in healthcare. Taking care of people is, in fact, my passion. Helping people, seeing what their attitude towards life is, what they have experienced. I work with older people who are beginning to suffer from dementia. That is very satisfying to me. I am a very caring type of person, my children say so, too. It is who I am and how I was brought up. My father used to say: ‘You should always give a guest the best seat in your house.’ I thought then: yes, that is right, in fact. And it not only applies to family but also to people I hardly know.  

My ex-husband and I have three children. We really wanted to have children, but we couldn’t. In the end, we decided to adopt. Our oldest is from Indonesia, the middle child from Brazil. They were still babies when they came to us. So I was busy with the children and not thinking about getting pregnant anymore. Then I became pregnant after all, with a third son. Raising three boys was not always easy. Our middle son was a real rascal. But anyway, I managed to do it. They are now three adults, with children of their own. So I am a grandmother. It feels very special. I would not miss it for the world. 

At least fifteen years ago, my middle son came to me and said: ‘Mum, there’s a woman at the tram stop with a baby and little boy. She has to take them to hospital, but there is no tram in that direction.’ He knew she lived at the Pijperring, but nothing more. We quickly got into the car to see if we could find her. My son knows me and knew: mum will do this. And of course I would. She was an African woman, she had a baby a few weeks old with her. The baby was gravely ill. And the little boy was about two years old, I think. We drove to hospital. The baby had to be examined and then we had to get medicine, but the chemist here in Delft was closed, so we had to go to Pijnacker. Then I dropped the lady off at her house and drove with my son to Pijnacker to get the medicine. The woman did not have any relatives. She was all by herself, with her two little children. She had not been living in Delft long and only spoke English. She was very grateful for our help. But she also had hardly any money and there was hardly any food in her house. The next day, I brought her food. I also asked my colleagues if they had any children’s clothing. The response was overwhelming; suddenly I had all kinds of clothing.

We helped her for a long time and she often visited us at home. Her two-year-old son often stayed with us, so she could catch her breath for a week. But at some point, we lost touch. A shame. So I have no idea how they are. It is one of those things, when people suddenly disappear from your life. Sometimes you have to let go of things. It can be difficult, but it is what it is. Not long ago, for example, I tried to strike up a conversation with a young man who had been in the park for a few days, but he hardly responded and wasn’t the least bit interested in talking. Of course, I had to accept that, but it was on my mind. I thought he seemed vulnerable and I could see sadness in his eyes. I can sense when people are uncomfortable in their own skin. I always want to give people a chance to talk. Sometimes you come to regret it. Still, that is the way it is, it can bother you for a while, like with the young man. It’s lovely to see that my children are supportive and ready to help others. I believe people should look after each other. We all have to help our fellow human beings. We are all people, everyone has a right to a good life, everyone has a right to a future. Unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. This sometimes bothers me. Everyone has rights to everything here. For life is good here. I was brought up to believe this and I have passed it on to my children. My message is: all people are equal, no exceptions.