Nelleke (76) cannot live without an oxygen machine and her caregiver August

Nelleke (76) and Fons (81) lead a secluded life, but thanks to their informal caregiver, they are not alone. They live in the Kalsdonk district in Roosendaal and both have fragile health. Nelleke is confined to bed due to her lung disease and Fons doesn’t go outside much either. August (64) cared about the fate of his fragile neighbors. As their caregiver, he never misses a day.

Nelleke and Fons have lived in Kalsdonk for over thirty years. They met later in life. The couple is not married. Nelleke has little contact with the outside world. Fons is not completely alone, he has good contact with his son. Moreover, despite his poor health, he still goes out in his mobility scooter.

In the living room, Fons spends hours behind his computer screen while Nelleke watches television from her bed. The oxygen pump she depends on makes a soft humming sound. Labrador Cindy is sleeping. And so day after day passes.

“I don’t know how we would manage without August.”

Neighbor August moved from his native Suriname to Roosendaal in 1992. “At one point a good friend asked me if I wanted to come live with him so he wasn’t lonely. That’s how I ended up in Kalsdonk next to Fons and Nelleke. I’ve done odd jobs for them before. Since my friend was recently admitted to the nursing home, I visit them every day,” says August.

He does the dishes and laundry, walks the dog, trims the hedge and goes through the house with a vacuum cleaner on Sundays. But above all, August keeps an eye on things.

“In Kalsdonk we take care of each other. That’s normal,” says August as he makes sandwiches for Nelleke in the kitchen of the modest workers’ home. “During my Surinamese upbringing I learned that you have to take care of older people. My neighbors are so nice, so I do it with love.” Nelleke responds with a fragile voice: “I don’t know how we would manage without August, he means everything to me.”

“You only meet real friends when you are in need.”

Fons and Nelleke also receive visits from volunteers from the Voor-elkaar team in the neighborhood. This is an initiative in which neighbors visit other neighbors for a chat or help. “We notice that people find it important to be seen. That gives them a good feeling, but what August does is of course exceptional,” says volunteer Hans van Dijk.

Nelleke quickly gets short of breath when she has to talk for a long time. Yet she insists on putting in a good word about her neighbor. “There are few people like him. I am very happy with August.” Fons supports her from behind his computer: “We also get help from home care, but there are still many chores left. Without August they better clean us up. You only meet real friends in times of need.”

Omroep Brabant was present in Buurtcentrum Kalsdonk at Rector Hellemonsstraat 2a in Roosendaal from Monday, November 27 to Friday, December 1. Would you like to share your story with us? Then send a message to [email protected] or app us on 040-2949492.


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Nelleke's health is fragile (photo: Erik Peeters).
Nelleke’s health is fragile (photo: Erik Peeters).