They take walks along the beach, go to museums and enjoy a good glass of rosé and a beer. Artist Sonia van Nispen tot Sevenaer (18) and sports director Eva van Stiphout (29) do something fun together every other week. “Preferably more often, because we love spending time together,” says Eva. They got to know each other through Buddy Network Foundation . Want to become a Buddy too? You can sign up here.

“Expand the world of a different”, that is the motto of Buddy Network“, says Eva. “But it definitely works both ways. Because of Sonia, my world has also become bigger, more beautiful and more valuable. It’s like we’ve known each other for years.”

Everything intensifies

“Sonia has wonderful stories to tell and is also genuinely interested in my life. She teaches me to be more patient and to pay more attention to and listen to the things around me. Sonia has early dementia. Things therefore go just a little bit slower, but at the same time she experiences everything more intensely. It is wonderful how we can look closely at trees and plants together.”

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    Eva and Sonia during a walk on the beach Photo: Stichting Buddy Netwerk

      Taking the bull by the horns

      Eva signed up in January 1024 as a volunteer at the Buddy Network Foundation. “During the covid period, I regularly read stories about lonely elderly people who became even more isolated due to the lockdown,” she says. “When I saw a video of a crying woman of eighty years old who also shot herself, I thought: okay Eva, you can sit here and cry, but that won’t help you either, so you’re going to do something about it NOW.”

      Support to the vulnerable

      The Buddy Network Foundation is a volunteer organization that offers support to vulnerable people by deploying buddies. They are there for:

      People with a chronic or serious illness

      People who feel lonely
  • People with early memory problems and their caregiver(s)

Children between the ages of 5 and 18 years who are chronically ill

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Having a drink on the beach Photo: Stichting Buddy Netwerk

    Introductory meeting and training

    After you have registered as a buddy, you will be invited for an introductory meeting. It explains what being a Buddy means exactly. This is followed by two training courses: an e-learning via the Buddy Academy and one on location together with other Buddies. When you have completed this you can immediately be deployed with a buddy.

    Match conversation with your buddy

    If a suitable buddy has been found for you , there will be a match conversation at the buddy’s home. Both you and the buddy indicate after this conversation whether there is enough click. You and your buddy will then see each other two to four hours a week or every other week, for a period of three months to a year.

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      Eva and Sonia during a walk in the dunes Photo: Stichting Buddy Netwerk

    Probably a match

    “During the introductory meeting I was asked who I am, what my interests are and who I would like to become Buddy with”, says Eva. “There was a demand for Buddy’s for people with early dementia and that target group appealed to me. I briefly had another buddy, but after the summer holidays I was approached by Buddy Network if I wanted to meet Sonia. They thought we would match.”

    Nice addition

    “That absolutely right,” says Eva. “I met her with her son and it clicked immediately. Sonia is a visual artist, has traveled extensively and has always led an eventful and rich life. She wanted to go out more and do fun things. She has children and grandchildren with whom she does the same, but they are often busy with their own lives as well. Our buddy-buddy contact is a nice addition to that.”

    ‘It doesn’t matter what we do’

    “I know her by now family good and Sonia came to my house the other day. Officially I’m her Buddy and Sonia is my Buddy, but I call her my Buddy-Grandma. Recently we went together in the Ferris wheel in Scheveningen. That was great. We walk a lot, have lunch and drinks together and have long conversations. It really doesn’t matter what we do. It’s about the moment and the experience.”

    Continue reading below the photo >

Eva and Sonia in the Ferris wheel in Scheveningen Photo: Stichting Buddy Network

    Become a Buddy

    “Recently we had a meeting with all Buddy’s who have a buddy with early dementia”, says Eva. “That was fun and useful, because we could exchange experiences. I just noticed that I was pretty much the youngest. Of course volunteering takes up some of your time, but I especially want to recommend young people to become a Buddy too. I am so very grateful to be able to do this. I wish that for everyone, both Buddy’s and their buddies.”

    Sign up

    Buddy Network Foundation is active in The Hague, Delft, Westland, Leidschendam-Voorburg, Rijswijk and Zoetermeer. Do you want to know what it means to be Buddy? Then call 070 3649500. Registering directly as a buddy is of course also allowed.

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