“It was like a revolution was happening in my mind. I knew I needed to do something.”

Maartje ter Horst | 01-02-2024

When Jeroen Melman went on a weekend away together with his wife Maddy and some friends at the end of 2022, he could not have imagined that it would turn out to be a turning point in his life. It all began with a podcast*, he says: “The previous day I had listened to a story that mentioned the fact that half of the world population earns less than seven dollars a day. It struck me on that weekend – we can easily spend this salary within 24 hours. Simply for a night away, a boat trip, a bite to eat and a game of boules. Poof – a year’s salary gone. This fact suddenly felt utterly unfair. It feels a bit crazy to say but it was like a revolution was happening in my mind. I knew I needed to do something.”

Donating as the first step

Once he gets thinking, it all floods back to him: “Something really jumped out at me”. After that weekend he put his money where his mouth was and decided to start donating money. “I was – and still am – a casual ten-euro-a-month supporter of a few charities here and there, but it was not in proportion to what I was capable of giving.” Pretty soon he found Doneer Effectief and initially decided to donate 5% of his annual income. Since 2023 that has risen to 10%. Jeroen: “I also had the strong belief that I shouldn’t keep this realization to myself. I wanted to inspire other people to begin donating. So I began thinking: can I somehow tie my altruistic ideals in with my work?”

From a course to a community

He first signed up for an introductory course with Effective Altruism Netherlands. Jeroen: “It was nice to have a discussion group with others who were also thinking about “doing good effectively”. A plan came to light during that introductory course to set up a community within ASML, the tech company where Jeroen works. “When I started working on it, it turned out that two of my colleagues happened to be working on the same thing, and eventually the four of us started ‘Effective Altruism ASML’. We wanted to organize something once every quarter to inspire colleagues, among other things. Last December was the first meeting – it was about effective donation – and a hundred people attended. The next day at work one of my colleagues came to me and said ‘I found it so inspiring that last night I discussed it with my husband and immediately transferred some money’. I loved hearing that! We were able to get people thinking! Our current focus is just the Netherlands, but ASML is a large international organization, so the growth potential is huge. Another existing community in ASML – “Green ASML” – has 2000 employees involved. ASML itself also donates money to charities, so with our community we could start trying to think about the effectiveness of those donations. So much is possible!”

Ideals on the workfloor

Alongside founding the community, Jeroen has also made strides in his own work: “Since January last year I have started in a role where I can contribute to the technical side of sustainability within ASML. As of October, I am also part of the Corporate Strategy team as ‘Strategy Architect Environmental Sustainability’, quite a mouthful. Now I can spend 100 percent of my time working to make ASML more sustainable from both the technical and strategic side. It feels great that I have been able to make this my job.

Spreading the word

He also engages in conversation in his private life. Jeroen: “Last year I hosted a party for my 40th birthday. I included the following in the invitation: ‘I don’t need gifts, but if you do want to give something: please donate to Doneer Effectief’. I still got a lot of craft beers from people who had missed my message, which was not wrong of them of course (haha), but the majority of people donated. Another time after a barbeque with my volleyball team, we spent an hour talking about donating and how you can translate your principles into your work. This is not to say that they were all converted at once, but I do feel that people are open to the ideas and some seeds are planted. They also notice that it energizes me.” This is what Jeroen likes to convey: “It’s cool to be in a position to help people! And we are in the fortunate circumstance to be able to do just that.”

*Jeroen listened to an audio version of this article. Curious? Check it out here (in Dutch):

or

https://decorrespondent.nl/13782/nee-je-bent-niet-goed-zoals-je-bent/00f3b59e-4746-0f27-3b71-fda98677482d

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