It’s the end of an era.
After 35 years of having Brendon come to stay at their home in Belgrave, Mia and Evert Jansen’s hosting arrangement has finally come to an end.
The Jansen’s first started hosting in 1983 when Brendon was aged nine – the same age as one of their own two boys. Evert remembers becoming aware of the Interchange voluntary hosting program probably through an advert or from someone talking about it. He also remembers knowing a family in his youth who had a son with a disability who was always ‘locked away’ when they came to visit – something that was common in those days. He and Mia wanted their boys to grow up accepting of differences in people and being exposed to life on all different levels. So the thought of hosting a young boy with a disability through the Interchange program was attractive to them as a family.
Brendon, who has Prader Willi Syndrome, was a regular visitor at the Jansen’s, staying for a weekend each month for almost 15 years. In spite of Brendon’s condition requiring almost constant supervision, Mia and Evert had no issues with including him in their family life –there was unconditional love all round! And they were reassured by the fact that Brendon’s parents were able to take a well-deserved break.
Brendon’s family then moved from Ferntree Gully to Cowes in Phillip Island. Despite the distance the visits continued, though not with quite the same regularity as when the families lived closer. Over the years Brendon has formed a close relationship with both Mia and Evert and their boys and extended family, including grandchildren, plus friends. Mia says ‘Brendon is really a part of our family and the whole family accepts him.’
It is not only Brendon who has benefited from the relationship. Brendon’s parents, Jenny and David, and the Jansens have become firm friends with an enduring friendship and mutual support that extends beyond the original hosting situation.
Earlier this year both families discussed the match situation and decided that, as Mia and Evert are no longer ‘spring chickens’, they would continue to keep in touch and be a part of each other’s special events, as good friends do, but Brendon would no longer stay over .
Mia and Evert have never sought any accolades for their contribution to others but, in 2016, they were awarded a Volunteer for Knox Long Service Award for their 33 years (at the time) of commitment to IOE’s hosting program.
Their joint contribution to community still remains as strong as ever with their continued voluntary involvement in various community charitable organisations for which they have also recently received awards.
Thank you Mia and Evert Jansen from all at Interchange Outer East – your 35 years of hosting have been much appreciated.