Ambassador Henne Schuwer enjoys lunch with students from Ketcham Elementary School as part of the Embassy Adoption Program.

By Annabelle Zandbergen
Public Diplomacy, Press and Culture, Royal Netherlands Embassy

They felt like kings and queens as they walked into Ambassador Henne Schuwer’s residence in Washington, D.C., especially when they saw the portrait of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima hanging in the foyer.

“I like it because we do not have a king and queen in America,” explained 10-year-old Jade.

Jade, along with 19 of her fifth-grade classmates from Ketcham Elementary School in Southeast Washington, D.C, visited the residence on February 7 as part of the Embassy Adoption Program, a joint initiative of the Washington Performing Arts and DC Public Schools.

The aim of the program is to expand the global awareness of fifth-grade students through interaction with embassies in Washington, D.C. Before their visit to the residence, the children had lessons about the Netherlands and Dutch culture.

Staff of the Netherlands Embassy have visited the school to discuss the shared history and culture between the United States and the Netherlands.

What does Jade remember most about the Netherlands? “That there is a lot of water and that some people live in boats,” she said.

“And they have this enormous thing that blocks the water from where people live,” her friend Kameree added in reference to the dikes that keep out water. Climate change is the theme of program this year, so all the kids are well informed about the Netherlands’ continuous fight against water.

While at Ambassador Schuwer’s residence, the students prepared typical Dutch food, including bitterballen, hutspot and poffertjes, with resident Chef Joakim Söderberg.

After some chopping, kneading and a lot of flour-covered hands, the food was ready. Ambassador Schuwer joined the students for lunch and conversation in the dining room. Attentively, the kids listened as Ambassador Schuwer talked about the history of the residence and about the Dutch cuisine, which he called simple but nice. The kids agreed, especially about poffertjes.

The class was escorted by their teacher, Tacora Snell, and a volunteer from the City Year program. Ms. Snell said she appreciates the Embassy Adoption Program, since many of her students have never been outside Washington, D.C and this program gives them an opportunity to meet other cultures.

Moreover, this lunch does not mean the end of the program. There are more lectures, in which the students will continue to learn about what the Netherlands Embassy does, and by the end of the school year, the class will visit to the embassy and present a program on all they have learned about the Netherlands.

Some kids even dream about visiting the Netherlands. “I think it is a great place to meet new friends,” 11-year-old Anthony said.