Don’t stress, we only have today and a lot of good coming your way someday. This is Jan Helferink’s life philosophy. He regularly tests it out at the Wilhelminaoord, squatting in a sheltered shelter house behind Menning that has been empty for years.
When his cat suddenly has six cubs, people arrive with food. When the power goes out, the neighbors offer to put cable in their barn. Enough for one light stove. “Never ask for help, then it will come.”
It is not easy to tell the life story of Jan Helferink. We capture this moment when, after a difficult childhood, he decides to take a walking trip to Rome in the village of Wenum-Wiesel near Apeldoorn. He had read a book about this and heard inspiring words from Ogterop Rikkert Zuiderveld. “He said something very beautiful.” The Bible says “Do not go left, do not go right, but go with God.” And God is everywhere, so all you can do is get lost. ”
Three days later, Jean left for Rome. With his guitar on his back and a cart in front of him. Places to sleep, food and everything is on offer along the way.
Once in Rome, he is looking for a place next to the gypsies. All goes well, until one day a carabinieri comes and delivers him to the Dutch embassy. They say dangerous. With a train ticket in his pocket, he saw passage in 24 hours in the reverse order that took seven months. But not quite as nice.
Anti-squatting in a colony house
After this walk he was allowed to live against the squat in a colony house at Wilhelminaoord. He remembers that a few years earlier he and Ellie Zuiderfeld stood in church and were surprised that the house was empty. “Two years later it was my home, right? But what happens to you can never be accidental,” he says.
The colony’s house burned down a year ago and a day later it turned out that his belongings had been stolen from the house. “Then it broke,” says Jan. “If you know someone has nothing left and then they steal? That’s pretty low. Normally I’d think they’d need it more than me. But that wasn’t the case in this case.” And then, as is so often the case during a conversation, another hard laugh follows.
He wanders for months from motor home to motor home at the Moesberg camp site in Nijensleek, until it is no longer possible and discovers the empty sheltered accommodation behind Menning. He meticulously reported the squat to the police and after much haggling with Norderbug and Actium, he is now officially registered at this address. He lives there with a chihuahua, a grandfather, a bull and two cats. But without water, gas and electricity. A paraffin heater provides some heat and gets water from the nearby cemetery. “Jesus could do that. And also from the board, by the way,” he says with a smile.
Jean is an early bird. He usually gets up at five in the morning. Good time to go to the forest. “That’s when you see most animals,” he says. It also provides inspiration. He looks around, at the paintings on the walls. “There aren’t a lot of sunrises for nothing.”
“Freedom, not a daily rhythm”
Painting, as much as he can, playing the guitar, being in the woods, that’s how he fills his days. And he prefers to be alone, because the baggage of the past has ensured that he keeps others at a distance. “Freedom, no daily rhythm, but make sure I can tell my stories.”
“Normal work isn’t possible anymore and I’ve tried volunteering, but I don’t anymore. It just doesn’t make me happy, always having people around me isn’t my craft. But since my trip to Rome and off therapy, things are much better. Since then, I’ve seen how Life can be absurd and I feel at peace about it. Before I wanted to be in control, now I let it go.”
Being positive or negative in life is not the case according to Jan Hilferink. Believe in realism in life. Those who face misery need not surrender to it. In all misery, you should always keep looking at the positive. He found inspiration for this in the Bible with Paul. “Call for help and then swim hard. Just start with something.”
And to be honest, it doesn’t work every day either. Sometimes depression comes, but not for as long as it used to be. “Two days, three days and then I’ll be back.”
Little things in December
With paraffin heater and 1 light in squat house. Many will shiver. But fortunately, Jean does not catch a cold easily. And it concerns the little things also in December. And then I can plant tomato plants again and in January the first snowdrops will arrive and hares will be born.
Then it turned out that it only seemed further away than it is today. “When March comes around, I always want to go out. I think of traveling with a horse and buggy and living off art.” he beckons. “Yes, it will happen one day.”