My name is Noortje Riedstra, I am a 21 year old medical student from the Netherlands. I’m currently studying abroad at the University of Sydney before starting my internship in the hospital. Before coming to Australia, I made a plan to run the Great Ocean Road Marathon on May 21st to raise money for Jan Verwer, a man whom I have worked for in homecare for 2 years. Mister Verwer has been in a wheelchair for over 40 years because he was hit by a drunk driver at the age of 26 which caused paraplegia and never allowed him to walk again.
Over the course of time we have gotten to know each other quite well, and I realised that life has been put on hold for Mister Verwer while it went on for everyone else. The consequential isolation is so unfair, and that’s why I decided that although I can’t change the fate of Mister Verwer, I can at least do something to make the future a little brighter for once.
I asked him if he is able to travel by plane, to which he said yes. Next I asked him where he would go if he had the chance, and he told me about a hotel in Tenerife where he has wanted to go for years. As he is not fit to work, this was never an option because the funds needed were not available, and due to the social isolation, there is no one that could go with him to take care of him while on vacation.
I went home that day and signed up for the Great Ocean Road marathon because I want Mister Verwer to have something to look forward to for the first time in many years, and I realised I could help him with that. By running I hope to raise enough money to take him to the island and help him fulfil his dream. Together we made a plan and a budget so he could do all the things he’d like to do, while he doesn't have to worry about the daily struggles of being disabled because I’ll be there to help him. I am looking to raise 5000 euro’s which will all go towards the vacation in the second and third week of September 2017.
But then, about 3 weeks ago, I broke my foot. I was very upset when the doctors told me that I would not be able to run on May 21st. It made me sad for a while, but then my dad called me and said he would fly out to Australia and run a half marathon with me. This way, we will still complete a “full marathon”, but we’ll just do it together. I am determined to make this happen for Mister Verwer.
I am doing this because mister Verwer deserves it. I always took mobility for granted, but I now realise how fortunate I am to be able to move about freely. Running for someone who is unable to use their legs is my way of giving back, and I want mister Verwer to have something that makes life worth living.