Irene van Driel been teaching at Butler University since 2016, at the department of strategic communication. “It is our mission to connect class material with real-life experiences, preferably by collaborating with organizations within the community,” she says. Irene chose to collaborate with The Patachou Foundation was perfect for her class last semester. Irene moved to Indianapolis two years ago and lived in Bloomington before that. She’s from the Netherlands and has plans to move back there soon. She says, “I hope to find a TPF in Amsterdam!” We are so grateful for Irene’s dedication to serving nutritious meals to kids who really need them. Thank you, Irene!
How did you first hear about The Patachou Foundation?
I stumbled upon the Foundation when I was looking for volunteering opportunities in Indianapolis. I had been to Cafe Patachou frequently and passed Public Greens and its gardens along the Monon while running and I was intrigued. It takes so little time out of your day and it is very rewarding.
What do you love most about volunteering with TPF?
What I love most is simply seeing the impact of the foundation. The kids are learning about food and feel empowered by that knowledge. Not all, and not all the time, but over the course of a few weeks change is visible. It is truly impressive.
It is amazing to observe the kids when they try the food. Some may say that they hate it and don’t want to eat anything.
And then you ask them to try one bite and their facial expression is worth a million when they realize it is not that bad. Others have two of everything (or three or four or five).
I love to see how much they learn from these short encounters every week.
And how much I learn as well. These kids all have their own stories and bit by bit share some of them while you sit down with them or serve with them.
From excitement about their Halloween costume, things they will do that evening or how this is the only meal they will have that day.
What’s your favorite memory or story from volunteering with TPF?
One time we were serving food with all kinds of vegetables, including zucchini. I sat down next to a girl and asked her what she was eating and was ready to explain to her all that was on her plate. She quickly identified each item on her plate. I was so impressed and humbled by the experience. They know a lot! (Although sometimes the kids think everything is chicken.) My favorite experience is also every time kids are in line to help set the tables, fill the water glasses and plates. And clean up afterward!
Last week I told a boy we had enough people helping already and the disappointment on his face was telling.
What school do you typically serve and can you tell us about it?
First I tried different schools, but I noticed quickly how fun it was to get to know the kids a little bit.
I volunteer mostly at IPS 14 and IPS 43. Some of these kids stole my heart very quickly and I just had to go back!