Marijke’s Story

Written by Erika Petrie

May 11, 2021

Marijke is young dutch girl with Down Syndrome who is now 20 years old. She has an older sibling Tom, who is four years older than her and they have always been close. She comes from a very loving family and her parents Peter and Barbara have always doted on her and have supported her in pursuing the interests she is most passionate about such as: cooking, singing, dancing and acting.

Marijke as a child

She started off her education in mainstream, but at eleven years of age she went on to pursue her secondary studies in a special school where they live in Hengelo, the Netherlands. These special schools help prepare ‘differently able’ children in a practical way for their future by equipping them with the life skills and support they need to thrive in what they are best at.

Marijke finished school last year when she turned 19 and following an internship was offered the opportunity to choose between different career options. In the Netherlands, the government encourages employers to offer equal opportunities and to make specific jobs available for people considered ‘differently able’. Currently Marijke has two different jobs: she helps out in a poolbar (restaurant with a swimming pool) on Mondays and Thursdays, which is located near where they live in Hengelo. On the other week days, she works at ‘Kamak’ which is a theatre that only works with ‘differently able’ actors. They learn all kinds of skills necessary for stage performance such as: dance, gimmicks, tricks, how to show emotions, assertiveness and standing up for yourself, group dynamics, and so forth. With productions especially made for this group of actors, they perform on stage at various points throughout the year. She has done a number of auditions and succeeded in securing an actress role. At the moment, due to COVID-19 things have been put on hold, but as restrictions start to come down things will hopefully continue as they used to. When Kamak resumes, Marijke will work there full time. Her other hobbies also include watching YouTube movies and of course eating good food.

Marijke has a warm, cheery and kind disposition – she is never grumpy. Her parents say she is their ray of sunshine at home. Currently, she still lives at home but in a few years time, she will go to live in her own apartment especially designed for ‘differently able’ people within her local community. Her family has already got good contacts there and so the plan is for her to have her own apartment within the building. It is ideally located for her family to visit, because it is within five minutes walking distance from her parents’ home.

Her parents are candid about the fact that they did not know beforehand about Marijke’s diagnosis but even if they had, this would not have made a difference, as they would still have had her…abortion was not an option for them as they think that the human right to life is sacrosanct! They value her beyond anything, love how she is able to smile and ‘live in the moment’ and wouldn’t change her for the world!

Marijke above, in one of her acting productions

‘She is a ray of sunshine’


  1. Maria Theodosi

    I wish from the centre of my heart the best for Marijke and her whole family.
    Marijke is not only a differently able girl but also a much more able person from the rest of us, since she and her family has been selected to have all the God care and blessings to succeed in her life and be able to live autonomous in her own apartment.
    In her smile appears the whole warm and the truth of her soul.
    Thank you, my lovely Erika for sharing such a blessing story!!

    • Erika Petrie

      It is my pleasure Maria. So glad you have been able to embrace Marijke’s story and her incredible ability to smile and live in the moment, whilst also being a true blessing and a ray of sunshine to her family.
      This is what our live blog is all about: sharing stories like these which show that diversity is what makes the world go round and that these ‘differently able’ individuals have so much to give society and much
      to be appreciated and valued for. I appreciate your warm hearted comments Maria…thank you 🙂


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