Humans of WUR: Leonie Geerlings

Who actually works or studies at Wageningen University & Research (WUR)? Read all about it in the series Humans of WUR.

This time we speak to Leonie Geerlings, BSc Management- and Consumer Studies student and chairwoman of Oma’s Soep in Wageningen.

“Last year I saw an advertisement about loneliness in elderly people. It mentioned that an increasing number of elderly people struggle with loneliness. This reminded me of the volunteer organisation Oma’s Soep."

"Oma's Soep is an organisation (in several Dutch cities) that aims to decrease loneliness in elderly people by bringing old and young together. The organisation hosts cooking workshops where volunteers and elderly people prepare soups from old vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. Since the start of the pandemic, volunteers also visit lonely elderly people at home to have a conversation and deliver the soup.”

“As Wageningen did not yet have an Oma’s Soep, I decided to bring this organisation to Wageningen together with a few other WUR students. About a year ago, we started building this project from the ground up. We did everything from establishing an organisation to recruiting volunteers and inviting elderly people."

"The best thing about my job are the positive reactions, both from the elderly people and volunteers. It was beautiful to notice that many of our elderly participants see the visit from the volunteers as the best thing in their day and really look forward to it. It’s amazing how you can absolutely make someone’s day by investing just a little bit of time and attention in them. And it makes you feel so good too. One of the volunteers also said to me that they really liked giving back to the city. Instead of only using the city for studying and then leaving again, you can really make a positive impact by doing something like this.”

“In the nearby future, we would like to streamline the organisation entirely and set clear guidelines for future boards. As chairwoman I also want to start organising individual conversations with the volunteers, so I can get their perspective on how the organisation is running. I want to make sure that we include their feedback, as the volunteers are one of the most important parts of the organisation.”