In the Netherlands, one of the thirteen Ronald McDonald Houses is located next to the VU Academic Hospital (VUmc). Not a coincidence. The starting point of the Ronald McDonald Houses is to give parents and families of sick children a temporary ‘home-away-from-home’ so they can stay close to their hospitalized child. And this is sorely needed, because a sick child can’t and shouldn’t be without its parents. Brothers and sisters are welcome too. A Ronald McDonald House is much more than just a roof above someone’s head. Parents receive support from the management and the volunteers but also from other parents, who find themselves in the same difficult and uncertain situation.
Aafke de Haan, manager of the Ronald McDonald House VUmc house explains. “Our house is a non-profit organization. Any corporate gifts or donations to a non-profit organisation – in accordance with the rules governing it – are deductible from corporate income tax” says Aafke. “We don’t receive any government subsidies and therefore depend on donors and sponsors. In part thanks to the help provided by all these companies, each year hundreds of families stay close to their hospitalized child. Families are asked to make a donation of 15 euros per overnight stay. Healthcare insurance sometimes partially or fully reimburses this personal contribution made by the families. The true cost of an overnight stay is of course much higher. It’s the generosity of our donors and sponsors that make it all possible.”
The Ronald McDonald House VUmc has 17 guestrooms with private bathrooms. There’s a communal kitchen, two living rooms where guests can read the newspaper or make use of the two computers (free internet access included). There’s a playroom/play area with toys for brothers and sisters, a laundry room and a garden/rooftop terrace where guests can relax when the weather permits.
Parents are able to cook their own meals and do their laundry themselves. Despite their ordeal, this enambles families to feel closeness and have some sense of a normal life.
“Thanks to volunteers, but also to the many sponsors, it’s possible to keep this organization running,” says Lian Wolfs, board member of the house and AirPlus Director Benelux.
“We’re always looking for companies that ‘have their hearts in the right place’ and are willing to support this incredible initiative; either by giving a donation or providing help with the general maintenance of the house. Apart from the fact that the RMcD House would otherwise cease to exist, there are extra incentives for companies who support the house. For instance we have started a business club for which activities are developed monthly. An excellent ‘networking tool’, I can say,” according to Lian.