‘Everything about the mills is so much fun – I wouldn’t mind living here.’
Twenty children with disabilities or long-term medical conditions recently visited Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage. They were invited by their teacher Petra Hoek, who lives in one of the Nederwaard windmills and knows the area like the back of her hand.
“I’m loving this so much!” As the Hopper tour boat makes its way back to its berth, Markus (10) needs little encouragement to let everyone know just how much he is enjoying this. “Everything about the mills is so much fun. I’ve never seen a windmill from the inside before. I wouldn’t mind living here.” Beaming faces surround the ten-year-old lad from Dordrecht on all sides. “I learned a lot today”, Jami (10) from Alblasserdam says. She goes on to admit: “Although I did like the Efteling theme park even better. I live around here, you know, so I’ve seen windmills before.”
Two classes from Kiem, a school in Dordrecht for children with physical or mental disabilities and/or long-term illnesses, recently paid a visit to the Kinderdijk windmills. Even though October was well underway, the group was treated to an unusual share of summer weather. The Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation (SWEK) had taken appropriate measures to facilitate the visit. The Blokweer and Nederwaard museum windmills had been fitted with steel planking, allowing wheelchair-bound kids like Markus to have a look inside. On the Blokweer millyard, a tent was set up to accommodate an adjustable bed used to catheterise when needed. The Hopper tour boat carried the groups to and from the different visitor locations. The Kiem teachers, including Miss Petra Hoek who lives in one of the Nederwaard windmills, were supported by a group of SWEK team members.
At the Blokweer Museum Windmill, the children are spellbound as they listen while miller Yvonne explains just how a mill works. No, you don’t use an app to control it; it’s all done by hand. Over at the Nederwaard Museum Mill, miller Björn tells the tale of why the mills were built in the first place, and how they milled the water out from the soil. Inside, the pupils get to take a very short nap in the tiny bedstead. “Woah, that’s pretty cramped!”
The original idea of receiving these two classes was conceived by SWEK’s commercial director Johan Mellegers. This special visit is up for evaluation, to explore the options for giving this type of event a place of its own on the Kinderdijk calendar. By their nature, our nineteen age-old showpieces just aren’t particularly suited for wheelchairs. Their status as monuments prevents any serious structural adjustments from being made.
“It’s really great that Miss Petra has made this happen”, Markus says. With her 28-year career in special education, Petra is just glad that the group of ten- to twelve-year-olds enjoyed an afternoon of fun. “For many of these children, opportunities such as these are few and far between at best.”