Before he became active in development-aid Groot led, according to himself, a dissolute life with much travel, and he also worked for some time in Gran Canaria’s gay night life. His exuberant lifestyle changed after he was informed he is HIV-positive. In this article Groot introduces himself and his book.
My dream: Eleven years ago I was walking on an unpaved and dusty road. I ran into playing children and asked them where their parents were. “We don’t have any parents,” they said and played on. Further on, I saw a dilapidated farm. “I will make a home for you there,” I said.
I woke up and remembered the dream, and the story I had read the night before in the book with “28 Stories of AIDS in Africa” by Stefanie Nolen. I called my oldest sister Johanna and asked her what she thought of me going to Africa for research and trying to achieve my dream. “Always,” was her reply.
I was brought up with sharing and caring for one another, coming from a catholic family with sixteen children. As a child, I wanted to become a missionary, just like my aunt Afie, who, according to my mother, was married to the Lord. Can I also marry the Lord, I asked her. She laughed and told me that I could not. However, I could become a missionary or priest.
When I got hold of the book “28 Stories of AIDS in Africa” years later, it all became clear to me. These stories hit me, partly because I am now HIV-positive myself. Meanwhile I knew how to deal with HIV. From the stories that I read, it was clear to me that the situation in Africa was completely different. I read a story about a woman who had seven children and fifteen grandchildren. All of her children died of AIDS. Her oldest granddaughter was fourteen and said she was pregnant. The story ended with: “Will she as well...”
The next day, I decided I would just go for it. Four months later, I boarded a plane to South Africa, and the Willen & Doen Foundation was born.
Ever since my childhood I dream of a better world. A world in which everyone can be themselves. Where no distinction is made, and everyone can make his dream come true for a better world.
On my path, I learned about duality, rich and poor, power and powerlessness. I quickly learned about the narrow-mindedness of humanity, and that everyone and everything has to be labelled and categorized. We are all familiar with discrimination, as we also get labelled GLBTI+, whether you like it or not.
Other cultures taught me that one man’s truth can be completely different from someone else’s. But also, that male-female roles are completely different in many cultures.
As a free spirit at heart, I packed my backpack at a young age. I wanted to see the world, get to know other cultures. I got to know Asia, the United States, Central and South America, and after Australia and New Zealand I chose Africa. Sharing experiences and learning from other cultures enriched me. However, Africa is completely different. On a voluntary basis, I shared my knowledge about dealing with HIV with the people, the street boys and children.
Through the years and with volunteers, I have organized many workshops at schools, fundraisers, and campaigns, as well the nun act at Pride celebrations, the Kwaku Festival, and the Hartjesdagen on the Zeedijk. Three times in a row with Pride, we were front-page news in newspaper Het Parool.
I invested all my savings in development work. “You must save something for your pension,” others told me. “I cannot take money with me when I leave this world. However, I can leave my wealth of knowledge to the next generation and to others,” was my answer.
The proceeds from the book “Droom van een Vrijbuiter” will benefit the children, as do any and all donations. I realize that I have found my goal in life. I would like to share this with others to inspire them with my experiences and urge them to take steps as well, as children are indeed our future. To change the world, a matter of “Willen en doen.”
The book can be ordered via www.willenendoen.com or email@example.com. Currently, work is being done on an English translation and the Willen & Doen Foundation hopes to present it on World AIDS Day.