‘Every family has something they deal with’

A long Covid recovery process led master’s student Amber van der Mark to something she loves – volunteer work with School’s Cool Delft.

Amber van der Mark: “During my recovery I had a year to think about what I wanted to do.” (Photo: Heather Montague)

“I have lived in Delft for seven years now and I’m currently in the second year of my masters in Construction Management and Engineering. I had a delay because exactly two years ago I had a very serious infection due to Covid, I ended up with viral meningitis. It was a very difficult experience. I couldn’t study, I play field hockey and I couldn’t play, I couldn’t do anything. I was very sick and spent time in the hospital. There was a long rehabilitation programme and it took me more than a year to recover.

My brain also wasn’t working well so it was hard to read. But during my recovery I had a year to think about what I wanted to do. I previously studied Building Engineering but last year I switched my master’s. I started with just six credits per quarter instead of 15, just to get slowly back into things. I also realised I wanted to do something for the community. I love education and had done some work at the Haagse Hogeschool and really liked it. But I thought I wanted to do something voluntarily to help other people, especially people who are talented and promising but also very vulnerable.

I started volunteering at School’s Cool Delft (in Dutch) in February of this year and I am a mentor coordinator. I guide mentors committed to support and encourage disadvantaged but promising children in developing their talents. The mentors who go into home situations help the children with education, development, sports, and leisure activities. I work with the kids who are in their first year of high school, so they are usually around 12 to 14 years old. We get funding from 11 different funds to do this work. Usually, we work with families who have big money issues and other problems at home.

‘It all started because of my Covid rehabilitation process’

It’s a national programme so there are groups in many other cities, but we focus on children here in Delft. Right now, in my age group we have around 30 kids and 30 mentors, but there are groups for the older kids in high school too. We started with a group who are leaving high school for their next level education, like MBO (secondary vocational education), helping them with the transition. We also have a group of kids in primary school.

I love the job. I also like that we’re all volunteers, which is very different from a paid job. It’s so nice to go to people’s houses, to meet with the kids and their families and find out how we can help. We do this every week so the kids know to expect us and can prepare the sessions. The mentor also helps the parents, especially with things at school where maybe they need translation or guidance.

It’s interesting that it all started because of my Covid rehabilitation process. I love my studies here at TU Delft, I really like the people here, I like living in Delft, and my friends are wonderful, but I also wanted to do something a bit different. The thing we have in common here at TU Delft is everyone is so smart so they are very good at studying. Everyone has their own path and not everything is simple. Every family has something they deal with and everybody has their own story. Sometimes the mentor has a similar story but was very able to learn. These kids are still struggling with that and we can definitely help them with studying and self-development.”

Want to be featured in Humans of TU Delft? Or do you know someone with a good story to tell? Send us an e-mail at      

Heather Montague / Freelance writer

Editor Redactie

Do you have a question or comment about this article?

Comments are closed.