“We refugees have skills to offer. We just need the right way to guide them.”
Bashar is a handiman. Whether it’s carpentry, water piping or heating, Bashar thrives from creating new things and making old things better. So when he was seeking a volunteer opportunity in his new hometown of Zaandam, NewBees was able to find him the perfect match.
Stichting BIND, a Zaandam-based organization, had a mission: to renovate an old building in Zaandam and completely transform it into a common space for artists and creative professionals to meet one another, socialize and collaborate.
For the past five months, Bashar has spent every Saturday at the old building, helping with everything from painting the walls to making wooden staircases.
Bas, co-founder of BIND, jokes that while the Dutch people really like the nostalgia of old stuff, Bashar really likes the new materials.
“The Dutch people love old things,” laughed Bashar. “And for us, we want new everything.”
A year after coming to the Netherlands, Bashar decided to start volunteering because he wanted to go out into society and help make a difference instead of just sitting at home.
“If you stay at home [all the time], you can become frustrated and desperate,” he said. “I needed to go out and meet other people.”
Back home in Syria, Bashar was a seasoned craftsman by profession. At BIND, Bashar’s been able to add valuable skills to his skillset, from creating hand-made wooden cabinets to staircases and tables. His favorite project has been the wooden closet he built into the wall at BIND’s new renovated space, describing the many steps it took to make such a cabinet.
“We filled this gap between the wall and the dresser, then added the wood on the back wall, and then we added the shelves,” he explained.
Despite the skills gained, Bashar sees getting to know people as the most rewarding aspect of volunteering with BIND. The opportunity has allowed him to connect with more Dutch people and other nationalities, as well as help him with the Dutch language.
“It’s been a really great and beautiful experience,” he said.
Bashar’s goal? To eventually open his own woodworking and handicraft business in Zaandam.
“We [refugees] have skills to offer,” he said. “We just need the right way to guide them.”
“We [as newcomers] need to get out of our bubbles, out of our houses, and go out and meet Dutch people. It’s not hard work, volunteering — it’s also having fun and meeting new people.”