woensdag 18 oktober 2017


Translation (request) of a piece I wrote in Dutch  

This afternoon the market square in Purmerend, a city not far from Amsterdam, is very busy. Many people are searching in the stalls for ‘new’ products. The coffee and apple-pie that I ordered could be considered as a reward for my cycling tour up to now. The taste is excellent and the friendly service an invitation to come back. This is Bownies&DownieS, a lunch café where people with disabilities are working.

On the terrace a mother of one of the employees tells me that her son never has been more cheerful than in this place. One week later the owner Sebas Koeter allowed me to listen to the stories of his ‘crew’. After 8 years in nursing and care of disabled people, he took matters into his own hands. Being one of many employees working for a mega company he saw no progress or positive development for himself. 

At the table in front of me sits an idealist trying to realise his dream. ‘I consider this square as the centre of society and that is exactly where I want to give these people a place. They can make mistakes and nobody will be angry if a plate lands on the floor in thousand pieces’. It shows the commitment to his ideas and the people concerned. On the other hand, every initiative will demand a certain investment and it is very important to let the outside world know about this project. 

For that reason, a comedian has performed in the restaurant to attract customers. It doesn’t take long before the enthusiastic employees tell their stories. Landsay, head of the service helps me every now and then to lead the conversations into the right direction. It is as if I enter a humane oasis. Their opinion and honest expressions are impressive. For those here it means getting the best out of yourself, recognition for your work, belonging to and standing in the middle of society. 

These are positive ingredients.  Patrick, Melissa, Joy and Brian, they all give a deep insight into the enrichment of their lives. From the day care, with limitations almost boring to the man that receives customers, working also in the kitchen. If Patrick tells his story the emotion is clearly visible. Melissa indicates that she likes working here and shows an enormous ambition to learn all kinds of things such as cooking and how to handle the cash desk, when customers pay their bill. 

This is her dream and being here is much better than the old place where she was. Joy explains how the day starts. ‘In the morning first we change clothes, put on our workwear and take our little notebook to write down the orders. Then we have a coffee before the early customers arrive’. After Brian has presented himself he tells about his active life. Part of the week he even has another job in an archive. Here he is in his element and he doesn’t encounter any ‘obstacles or difficulties’. 

This comes straight from the hart and is a real compliment for the man who has taken this initiative. Suddenly the discussion changes as Brian makes it clear to me that he is a TV star. In the programme, he and his colleague won the first prize for preparing menus and serving customers, a complete restaurant formula. I learn about his performance and the trophy he received. Spontaneous stories of all about their activities and sometimes a surprise. 

Rewriting the text of fairy tales is certainly not a usual hobby. In a tougher world, it is very important that we don’t forget to look at the humane side.  I am very glad that in this unique way I became acquainted with Downies&BrownieS. Perhaps one day you will also be there at the Koemarkt in Purmerend to enjoy a coffee or delicious lunch!

Wim Verhoeven