Marjoleine de Waal, a volunteer farm tour guide for two years at Hidden Villa, teaches schoolchildren about the 1,600-acre nonprofit organic farm and preserve in Los Altos Hills.
“It’s not every day you can show children where wool comes from,” said de Waal, 53, born and raised in Holland. “It’s so rewarding that (the children) enjoy themselves.”
She considers Hidden Villa to be an “equalizer,” because by providing some scholarship tours, Hidden Villa allows science-based, hands-on learning opportunities for schoolchildren from communities of all means.
“It doesn’t matter what school they come from,” de Waal said.
Because of her volunteer work at Hidden Villa, she finds that she’s more mindful about food and waste.
While awaiting her U.S. work permit, de Waal volunteered for a year in a different role at Hidden Villa 25 years ago as a farm and nature guide. Volunteers still lead those tours today, which consist of a nature walk and farm exploration.
The mother of two, de Waal considers Hidden Villa her backyard. When her children were young, she held their birthday parties at Hidden Villa and stayed at the preserve’s hostel once a year with them when her husband, Rene, traveled out of town.
“It was so nice to wake up and hear the cow,” she said.
An avid knitter, spinner and weaver, de Waal works at a local yarn shop and demonstrates her skills with wool during special programs at Hidden Villa such as Sheep Shearing Day. She received training at a culinary school in Holland, in the French style, and blogs about her cooking experiences. She is training to walk a half marathon next year and participates in Renaissance fairs.
The longtime volunteer encourages local residents to check out Hidden Villa.
“People think you need to know a lot and have a lot of time, but you don’t,” she said. “I knew nothing when I started here. The training prepares you.”
Hidden Villa has scheduled an orientation for potential volunteer guides 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 6 at the preserve, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills. If attendees subsequently decide they want to volunteer, all necessary training is provided free of charge. No experience is required.