THE HAGUE, The Netherlands, June 03, 2009 -- Aramco Overseas Co. (AOC) employees joined the staff of Resto Van Harte on May 13 to prepare a healthy three-course Arabic meal for 50 children from the Laakkwartier — a low-income, multicultural neighborhood in The Hague.

AOC Employees Help Bridge Cultural Gaps with Food Mirjam Ancher of AOC’s SAP
Helpdesk and Dragos Chetroui of AOC
Inspection prepare the meat for shawarmas —
part of a meal for 50 children from a
neighborhood in The Hague.

Resto Van Harte is a subsidized organization that provides free meals to fight social exclusion and desolation. The children’s lunch was organized to bring together students age 7 to 11 as a step toward social integration.

Under the supervision of a chef, five AOC employees worked all morning to prepare lunch. At noon, nine more AOC volunteers arrived to help set up the recreational space into a lunch room. Resto Van Harte manager Ben Lachab guided the volunteers in setting up the room, teaching them napkin-folding and table-setting skills in the process.

When the children arrived, volunteers formed culturally mixed groups at each table. The children — Dutch and foreign-descent students from the neighborhood — mingled and got to know one another and learn more about each other’s cultures. Dutch children who have never tried shawarma learned how to slice open and stuff a pita bread for the first time. In between courses, Arabic children showed others Arabic writing, played games, and talked about school, football and other kids’ stuff.

AOC Employees Help Bridge Cultural Gaps with Food Children chow down for lunch at Resto Van Harte.

After lunch, the volunteers accompanied the children to Museon — a popular science museum in The Hague — where they spent the afternoon exploring and learning. The children apparently enjoyed themselves so much that getting them to leave the museum proved to be most challenging.

It was the first time AOC got involved in a volunteer project for children. “I enjoyed the experience immensely,” said Maggie Hannan from AOC Finance, who was part of the cooking team. “The children really wolfed down the shawarma meal, and now I know how to make homemade pita bread!”

Michelle Lowe from AOC Internal Compliance and the SAP Program said, “Taking care of children during a museum visit was a lot of hard work. However, seeing their faces light up at various exhibits and realizing this is an opportunity that they don’t get very often made the effort worthwhile.”

(Article by Juvie de Koning)