After selling her house, Annemie Douwes Dekker decided to make a substantial donation to the Anne van den Ban Fund. ‘In this way, my money can be used to help scientific research and developing countries.’ She herself started a degree programme in Agricultural Economics in Wageningen in 1953.
A lasting impact in developing countries
‘I was the only girl in a lot of the lectures. The lecturers started their lectures very politely by saying “Miss Douwes Dekker and Gentlemen!”’, she recounts. She met her future husband, who was studying Landscape Architecture, during the introduction. ‘We hit it off right at the start of straight our freshman year. In fact we got married while we were still students. After that, the lectures began with “Mrs Douwes Decker and Gentlemen!”’ It is worth mentioning that Annemie Douwes Dekker is a descendant of the brother of Multatuli, otherwise known as Eduard Douwes Dekker, the author of Max Havelaar.
Douwes Dekker finished her degree 1962, while pregnant with her second child. She maintained her connections with Wageningen after she had graduated, via friends and acquaintances and the alumni magazine. This is where she first heard about the Anne van den Ban Fund some ten years ago. ‘I found it fascinating. Perhaps you know of the author Frank Westerman, another Wageningen graduate. His book El negro en ik gives an account of his experiences as a development aid worker in South America. If you read it, the logical conclusion is that Western attitudes do not always work in other cultures. You see this time and time again.’
Douwes Dekker’s critical view of development aid work explains her interest in the Anne van den Ban Fund. She was immediately drawn to its basic principle: helping people from developing countries to come and study in Wageningen. ‘I think that educating students from those countries is far more likely to make a lasting impact. These people return to their home country, where they can put the knowledge and skills they have learned into practice.’
Douwes Dekker found herself with a substantial sum of money after selling her house in 2011. ‘I wanted to donate it all to one good cause rather than giving smaller amounts to several different charities.’ She did not need to think long about which one. ‘By donating to the Anne van den Ban Fund, your money is invested in scientific research and developing countries. The fund combines the two in a rather unique way.’