The Miraculous Feeding
The Ein-Bustan initiative selected by the “Margriet” women’s magazine
After the city government of Arnhem invited me to talk about Ein-Bustan pre-school during Sunday service on April 15, 2007, Mrs. Inneke Donker, who was present at the time, became very enthusiastic about this initiative. At the same time, the editorial board of “Margriet” (a leading Dutch women’s magazine) decided to do something special in honor of its 70 year anniversary. The magazine initiated a 1,500 Euros grant to be awarded to 20 women pursuing philanthropic projects. At the 11th
hour Mrs. Donker decided to put in an application for the project, “Sowing for the Future.” After competing with thousands of applications—the magazine has 485,000 subscribers—hers was accepted. As of that moment, the magazine has been supporting the initiators of Ein-Bustan with their activities for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict. I, Vally Cornelius, was named one of the many ambassadors of Margriet’s “better world.” It is in this function that I found myself in an unknown media world, running for one year my own web-site
My Work Plan
After receiving the sum of 1,500 Euros from the Helias nonprofit organization, I decided to invest this amount in two ways: on the one hand investing in publicity, and on the other hand facilitating a cash flow larger than the initiative investment. That should enable me to initiate new activities and eventually to donate the original 1,500 Euros to Ein-Bustan in October 2008.
The first question I asked myself was, How do I introduce an activity in which all parties could recognize themselves? The answer came immediately: Selling dates! You know, those big, ripe fruits plucked right from the palm tree:
The Ein-Bustan children think its delicious.
In the presence of so much sweetness, the Jewish, Arab, and Bedouin parents could only have peaceful conversations.
In the Netherlands, the kind average citizen is willing to pay a little extra for such a delicacy.
I thought… but well,
- How do I get dates?
- Are there dates in August?
- Who is going to pick them?
- Who is going to wrap them?
- Who is going to bring them to the shipyard?
- What ship will bring dates to Holland?
- Who will pay the customs?
After a couple of weeks, in the village of Renkum, at Ibrahim Shahin’s Turkish vegetable and fruit shop I know so well, I came across a fata morgana, there they were! Branches laden with the most beautiful dates. I was flabbergasted.
I tell Ibrahim my story and my plan. He thinks it is a beautiful plan, peace for all children! Immediately he is willing to sell me several kilos of dates for cost price. The week after he brings in the most beautiful dates he could find. With this, he gifts several hundreds of Euros to the peacekeepers of Ein-Bustan. Where do the dates come from? Looking at the telephone number on the shipment boxes, I note that the dates arrive from … Israel. The little cellophane bag wrappings are obtained with a discount at De Kardoen, Bernadette de Bakker’s natural foods store in the village of Bennekom. For several days a small group of enthusiasts fill hundreds of attractive looking little bags stamped with the logo of Ein-Bustan.
A colleague of mine optimistically takes a box of dates with him to a conference day at work. He comes back without selling anything. “Nice initiative, but really too expensive: Ten dates for five Euros? In the supermarket they are much cheaper.” That’s the reaction he comes back with. The next day Cornelis Boogerd and I are invited to the Michael Conference for Waldorf school teachers, taking place in the city of Nijmegen, where over a thousand people are expected. What should we do? That evening I take a large framed mirror from my wall, attach a beautiful picture of Ein-Bustan toddlers to it, and add the following text:
"FOR A FIVE EUROS GIFT FOR THE EIN-BUSTAN PRESCHOOL, WE THANK YOU WITH A LITTLE BAG OF SWEET DATES FROM OUR COUNTRY"
At the end of the conference, the five Euro coins come flooding in, hundreds of free baggies fly out the door, and thousands of dates spread the message! That’s how it works with us Dutch!
In the meanwhile, at home and abroad, friends and family members sell, buy, and gift the dates at every possible event. Fantastic! But also the Amsterdam Waldorf School, Geert Groote College, shows its well known Amsterdam élan: besides selling homemade jam, the upper-school students initiate a sponsor run with an unknown amount collected.
The Dates Finale
Due to unfortunate unforeseen circumstances, it turned out that after the conference at the Karl de Groot College in Nijmegen, a large amount of boxes with dates were leftover. The thought was: those fresh fruit could be conserved in the school refrigerator until the Christmas fair. But, there was no Christmas fair planned for this year! That was a letdown! The story comes to an end with the help of the cooking teacher who for several weeks could not store her milk, butter, and eggs in the refrigerator and hence complained to the headmaster. The headmaster immediately took the initiative of writing a letter attached to small bags of dates distributed to all upper-school students with the well-known mission. Now the dates are gone, the refrigerator is empty, lots of crumbled envelops are delivered to the school, and the cooking teacher is counting the yield. Her name is … Margriet!
THE DATES PROJECT YIELDED FRUIT! THE MONEY FROM MARGRIET IS TRIPLED!
Many thanks to everyone!