West Shore teen creates foundation to help the homeless
COLWOOD -- Marijke is placing a sweater in a backpack, preparing to embark on a journey that would have been unimaginable when she was little. The now 17-year-old was so shy, and so late to talk, her mom Colleen sought help.
“I was concerned,” Colleen says. “[But] everybody told me as soon as she starts [talking] she won’t stop.”
They were right. When Marijke wasn’t talking about dressing up for Halloween, or scooping ice cream, she was singing along with her dad.
Marijke shows me old video of her bedtime routine, which included her dad singing Elvis’s "Home Is Where the Heart Is."
It proved to be a soundtrack of gratitude.
“It was like being in a cocoon,” Colleen smiles. “Everybody’s home and safe and comfortable.”
It was so different from the experience of homelessness that Marijke remembers learning about in Grade 2, and feeling deep sadness about.
“It stuck with me,” Marijke says. “I always kind of felt it and carried it.”
She carried it all the way to high school, where she met others spouting strong opinions about the issue.
“I’d always want to say to them, ‘Go take action! Go do something about it!’” Marijke says. “Then I turned that back on myself finally and said, ‘Okay Marijke, you need to go do something.’”
So she did some research and came up with a plan. In the midst of the pandemic — the then-16-year-old — decided to start an official foundation.
“I was so scared!” Marijke says. “I was like, I don’t even know what I’m doing!”
Yet — after investing her own money, navigating through the bureaucracy, and enlisting a board of directors of peers from different schools — Marijke did it.
The foundation launched an Instagram page and planned its first project.
“At times I was very nervous for her,” Colleen says.
But then Marijke’s foundation spearheaded a campaign to place a dozen boxes in schools around the region to accept donations for unhoused people. Colleen felt nothing but pride.
“Even if they only help one person, that’s OK,” Colleen smiles. “That’s one person.”
The thing was, they didn’t get enough donations for one person, they got enough to help 53.
“We were like, ‘Wow! This is incredible!’” Marijke beams. “Now we’re working on it.”
Now Marijke and one of her board members Nathan are working in a garage filled with donated clothes, food, and essential items. They’re filling them in backpacks, before the rest of the team delivers them to local shelters and community groups.
“If you feel something that you’re passionate about, don’t be afraid to take that big leap!” Marijke smiles.
Like the leap that led Marijke to create a foundation that she named after her dad’s comforting lullaby, "Home Is Where The Heart Is."