Interview with Pharaon pilot participant Arnold – photographer, traveler, decorated volunteer

Men are scarce in the Dutch Pharaon pilot and we’ve already heard from a lot from women. High time to let a man have a say. Fortunately, we were able to call Mr van Bakel from Bennebroek. (Interview conducted by Pharaon partner Femke Nijboer, University of Twente)

Femke: Hello Mr van Bakel. Or may I say Arnold?

Arnold: Go ahead.

Femke: You and your wife are taking part in the Pharaon pilot in Bloemendaal. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

Arnold: Yes, I am participating together with Ria, my wife. I have lived in Bennebroek all my life. We have 2 sons, aged 34 and 37, 2 daughters-in-law and 1 grandchild. I am 70 years old and retired. I collect coins and banknotes from all over the world. That way, I learn a lot about different countries. I am also an avid amateur photographer and make photo books for other people too.

Femke: Do you enjoy travelling? Have you travelled a lot?

Arnold: Yes, we have travelled a lot together. Last year we went to Costa Rica and this year to the Greek islands where we cycled on six different islands and to Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. In July, I went with my youngest son to the North Cape.

Femke: And what used to be your profession?

Arnold: I was an accountant.

Femke: Why did you sign up for the Pharaon study?

Arnold: We wanted to experience what is on offer. We both have an interest in wellbeing. Ria was an advisor for older people and I myself am a volunteer with Wellbeing Bloemendaal, among others.

Femke: Oh, and what are you doing there?

Arnold: For example, I am a restaurant volunteer on the Zonnebloem boat. The Zonnebloem association helps people with disabilities experience a carefree holiday week.

Picture of the Zonnebloem boat - a boat with a sunflower painted on itFemke: Why did you become a volunteer?

Arnold: I became partially disabled at 50 and wanted to support more people in addition to my administrative volunteer duties. That’s when I started volunteering with Wellbeing Bloemendaal. Host at the Open Dining Table, activating home visits and photo volunteer. And once you become a volunteer, they find other work for you. I have now been volunteering for more than 50 years for which I received a Royal decoration. I started at the age of 18.

Femke: Where did you start in 1971?

Arnold: I became treasurer at the local first aid organisation.

Femke: Again, something to do with money. And how did that coin collection come about?

Arnold: While I was working, I did a job for a director. As a thank-you, he gave me a shoebox of coins and banknotes from various countries. That’s how it started. I also photograph a lot. You can also help people with that. I paid visits to a lady in her home who was about to turn 100 this year. Every time I visited her, she asked, “Will the mayor come when I turn 100?” I agreed each time. However, it slowly became clear that, due to illness, she was not going to reach 100. I then contacted the Bloemendaal municipality and was able to arrange for the mayor to visit her earlier. I recorded it and made a booklet for her that sat next to her bed for another three weeks and which she could proudly show to other visitors.

Femke: How beautiful! Sometimes it’s better to take matters into your own hands. What does the Pharaon study do for you?

Arnold: That we go out and experience something.

Femke: You are very active like many study participants, aren’t you?

Arnold: Yes, I used the pedometer for a while but I now have one on my phone. We try to walk for a couple of hours every day. We also cycle a lot. If we can, we go out by bike and not by car. We eat healthy from the community garden. So we eat a lot of vegetables!

Femke: What does volunteering offer you?

Arnold: Volunteering provides inspiring contacts with fellow human beings and it gives satisfaction.

Femke: However, the number of volunteers is declining in the Netherlands. How do you think that can be solved?

Arnold: People should remember that it is satisfying to do something for your fellow citizens. It also keeps you active and involved. For young people, it is an excellent addition to their CV.

Femke: And what plans do you have for the near future?

Arnold: We want to travel more. Next year, maybe to Iceland, Uganda or India. And especially enjoy the beautiful moments in our daily lives.

Femke: Do you perhaps have an idea, how we scientists, can reach more people who need help to move?

Arnold: One should approach people actively, personally. Addressing them and asking questions right away and raising any concerns. I started actively approaching people to join the Zonnebloem boat and ended up with 14 people from the three Dutch cities Bennebroek – Vogelenzang -Zwaanshoek.

Femke: Is that trip also a tip for other pilot participants?

Arnold: Yes, maybe it is. The selection of people is done by the Zonnebloem association in Breda. About 2900 guests can go on the boat every year. 65 guests at a time. Tip: If people sign up, do so preferably in spring or autumn.

Femke: But you have to have a disability, then?

Arnold: Which person over 80 does not have a disability?

Femke: Haha, that’s true again. I think it’s a good tip and a nice conversation. Thank you very much!