Building a Better Place for Children

Manila Bulletin, June 9, 2013 | Go to article overview

Building a Better Place for Children


"We believe in the strength of people. We believe that all we need to do is hand out the tools so that they can do it themselves."

The most striking thing about Plan Philippines country director Carin van der Hor is despite the fact that the organization she works for faces heartbreaking scenes on a regular basis - victims of child abuse, indigenous peoples who have been left behind by the government's policies, and survivors of the numerous natural calamities that routinely hit the country - she still manages to have a sense of humor.

As she was handing out her business card before this interview began, she was already joking around, telling us that now we could see how funny her name is. And laughs were quick and easy throughout this interview, in between her articulating the many things that Plan Philippines accomplishes here in the country.

It's not that she's making light of the things she encounters - far from it. She admits to having cried on occasion because of the things she's seen, and she says that she's often been grateful that she was born in the Netherlands and can send her two kids to a good school. But letting these things get to her, she says, would be counterproductive to what she wants to accomplish.

"My reasoning is as long as these kinds of things still exist, there is a role for me. It doesn'tmean that I don't get sad every now and then. But I need to translate that into action," she says. "You should also keep a professional distance and make sure that you don't take things too personal. But at the same time you shouldn't be detached either. It's a fine line."

It's a line that Carin has been treading as early as her high school years in the Netherlands. As a young girl, she says she used to raise funds for "whatever social cause you can think of", much to the consternation of her parents.

"My parents actually said to me 'Maybe you shouldn't be doing it in school. Let us just sponsor as a family. Otherwise you'd always be running after your classmates for the money,'" she recalls with a laugh.

While fundraising may have been "discouraged", her interest in social causes was not. She took up Law and Social Sciences at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and went on to acquire her master's degree in socials sciences, with a specialization in educational, organizational and cultural sociology at the same university.

As the first person in her family to get into university, and eventually get a master's degree, Carin says she has always felt a need to pay that back. Her first job was with the social welfare department of the Netherlands, and since then she's always found herself for non-profit organizations and social development.

It has taken her to places like Hanoi, Vietnam, where she served as a country representative of the World Population Foundation, as well as to Kathmandu, Nepal, where she was general manager of the PAL-Nepal Project of the Institute of Medical Technology Assessment of the Rotterdam University.

She was posted here in the Philippines in 2011, and she says that it has proved that it is indeed "more fun in the Philippines."

""I worked in New Zealand with Filipino nurses, and when I would talk about the Philippines, they told me a lot. My expectations were that there would be a lot of challenges, but there was a lot of energy and momentum to change things. That's really what I found and I actually think it's more fun in the Philippines," she reveals.

There certainly is a lot more things that can still be changed in the country, and Plan intends to help out where they can. Carin says that Plan intends to expand the work that they do here in the country. Aside from projects already ongoing in Mindoro, Samar, and Leyte, Plan is looking towards Mindanao, as well as strengthening their programs addressing youth unemployment and climate change adaptation. …

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