• Ellen Barnes

Newbees at Work: Sheelan, the Matcher

Linda (left) and Sheelan (right) at NewBees' Amersfoort office

“I raised my hand and said, ‘I want to work.’"

When Sheelan arrived in the Netherlands with her husband and small son in 2016, she had no idea what the future held. Now, as an assistant matcher for NewBees’ Amersfoort team, she’s helping other newcomers discover a new future of their own.

In Syria, she was studying economics when war forced her to leave — first to Turkey, then the Netherlands. When Linda, NewBees’ Amersfoort Manager, came to her language school to share about NewBees, she was immediately interested:

”I raised my hand and said, ‘I want to work.’” As for what kind of work, she said administration: “I want to continue my studies in business school,” she said.

At NewBees, Sheelan matches newcomers to local businesses and organizations that suit their backgrounds, skills, strengths and future goals. She’s also able to speak her mother tongue of Arabic with any newcomers who haven’t yet gotten a firm grasp on Dutch, ensuring that nobody is unable to participate in society solely because of their lack of Dutch skills.

"I’m very happy with her," said Linda. "After only two years in the Netherlands, she speaks and writes almost perfect Dutch. She's a great connecter between Dutch and Arabic people, and she helps me better understand cultural differences, leading to better connections and more successful matches."

Her language skills alone are nothing short of impressive: in addition to Dutch and Arabic, she also speaks Kurdish, Turkish and English: “If you are Syrian, then you must know many languages,” she said. “When I left Syria, I lived in Turkey for four years; I had to know the language. I worked in the tourist area, using Arabic, Turkish and English.”

“I want to continue with my studies here, but the first step is mastering the language — I want to work with people in order to keep practicing the language. Therefore, I must work and study — part time, because I'm also a mother. I’m now an assistant matcher, but I want to go further. I hope to continue with NewBees.”

Growing a local network

Her favorite thing about working for NewBees? “The contact with people. I’m building my network, and that is very important. I’m very social — I ask questions right away and am open and honest, so I think it’s easy for me to make contact with other people.”

An example? “Last week a colleague told about a company that was searching for a lot of people, and she wrote down their name. I made an appointment with them, and it gave me a new idea for NewBees — I found a new company [for newcomers] from my network.”

After working with NewBees on a voluntary basis for five months, she did so well in the role of matcher that she was able to start with paid work.

“This is a great first step — Linda is a very good boss and a great colleague.”

Motivating other newcomers — and Dutchies

Her advice for other newcomers in the Netherlands? “Just begin. You don’t know where your chance is. Maybe here, maybe there. From volunteer work, I got the chance to work a paid job — that is a big chance. It’s very important for newcomers to begin with volunteer work.”

The concept of volunteering is very different in Syria, she explained. They still help others, but not in such a formal, organized way — for many newcomers, this requires a cultural explanation. “In Syria, volunteering is not a structured activity. But here, I know that with volunteer work, I can get contact with people, practice the language, increase my experience — and that’s good for my CV.”

Her advice to Dutch organizations? Share their vision and target with more newcomers so that they’re aware of the opportunities: “I came to NewBees because I have a target. I want to build my experience. Organizations must help newcomers understand, ‘This could [possibly] be the way to paid work.’”

Developing resilience and strength

As for living in the Netherlands? “It is good and beautiful — I don’t like 100% of it, but I like more than 50%. I miss my family. I am alone here. That’s why I stay busy with work, with my child — I don’t want to sit at home.”

“In my life, I have very many things that I miss,” she added. “I went to Turkey where I found a job on my own, then I had to leave. I came here and I have no family, and I would sit at home — I have many problems in my life. But then I say, ‘No. I've got to get up again… One more time. There might be an opportunity to grow.”

Now, after two years in the Netherlands, she’s starting to feel more at home. “I’m now almost 24 years old, but I’ve learned a lot. Whenever I want to stand, a problem will always come against me… but I must always accept and say, “Ok, I’ll make it through.”

Interested in helping newcomers like Sheelan thrive in the Netherlands by giving them a chance to use their strengths and skills to benefit Dutch society? Check out our website to learn more about how you can impact the lives of local newcomers.

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