Liliane Brekelmans-Gronert (1929-2009) wanted to help one girl with a disability towards independence. She had met her in Sumatra, Indonesia. Agnes and Liliane had much in common: their place of birth, difficulty in walking, a walking stick, but differences between them had determined the courses of their lives. Liliane’s spontaneous action was the start of an organisation that now supports tens of thousands of children with disabilities in developing countries every year: the Liliane Foundation.

Liliane Gronert and Ignaas BrekelmansLily Gronert was two years old when she contracted polio. The disease passed, but the paralysis to her legs did not. Lily herself became ’the girl with a disability’.

In 1939, Lily and her family visited The Netherlands. The war changed her circumstances and she stayed in The Netherlands permanently. 40 years on, she went back to her birth place Sumatra together with her husband Ignaas. She met Agnes, a young Indonesian girl who also suffered from polio. Agnes lived in foster care without any prospects in her life. Struck by the similarities and the differences that she had with Agnes, Lily decided to help her. She wanted to establish practical, small-scale aid adapted to Agnes’ situation. At that time, there were no organisations in the Netherlands that provided individual assistance.

Liliane and Ignaas, heart of the FoundationLily decided, together with her husband, to save up money themselves, with the help of family and friends. Once they had saved 100 guilders (around 45 euro), they sent it to Agnes’ caretakers to buy a sewing machine. Agnes and some other disabled girls at the centre where she lived learned how to use it. Lily continued to follow their progress. In the meantime more requests for assistance came in. Saving up money has never stopped. On 14 March 1980 the Liliane Foundation was established.

Since that day almost 800,000 requests for aid have been approved, implemented and justified. Agnes lived an independent life, earning her own living as a seamstress. In 2015, she passed away at the age of 59.