Story by: Ellen Barnes, NewBees Freelance Writer
I asked 12 newcomers about their hopes for their future in the Netherlands; this is what I learned.
Over the past 1.5 years, I’ve had the privilege of sitting down with over a dozen different newcomers to hear about their experience in the Netherlands. I've not only learned about their experiences working at internships, traineeships, volunteer jobs and paid jobs through NewBees, but I've also heard about challenging cultural differences, future hopes, dreams, struggles and triumphs.
Despite all the challenges, language barriers and cultural adaptations, the recurring theme was clear: they don’t want to sit at home — they want to work. To participate in their new society. To contribute. To be given a chance. To use their skills and strengths to make a difference in their communities. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Here’s what they told me:
They want to be out, participating in society.
“If you stay at home [all the time], you can become frustrated and desperate. I needed to go out and meet other people. 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.” — Bashar, handiman at Zaandam’s Stichting BIND
“You cannot just sit. You must continue practicing your skill, making connections with other people, and getting experience in how things are done in this part of the world. That’s the beauty of NewBees.” — Ninah, aspiring activist
“I like to be useful to society, so I wanted to do something for people that need help. It’s better than sitting at home... You wake up having a plan.” — Jackie, volunteer at Amsterdam Noords’ grocery service Lokaal & Sociaal
• • •
They want to integrate into Dutch society.
“When you do a voluntary job here, it’s for you. It’s not for the government, not for the Dutch people. It’s for you. It’s a way of helping you find your life here. If you want to stay here, you must go outside — to learn their culture. To go try to find a job.” — Bakri, NewBees matcher
“Volunteering is very important. I must have contact with Dutch people. It’s important for me to find work in the future. I like it very much, the work here — speaking and having contact with friendly people.” — Samer, host at The French Language School at Amsterdam’s De Waalse Kerk
“We need to give effort. We don’t have to look to our past, but we should focus here, on the present, and live as the people here are living — we need to integrate with them.” — Bushra, caretaker at Amerfoort’s assisted living facility Het Seminarie
• • •
They want to focus on the future, not the past.
“At home, we each had our own pasts, work and experience. We just need the right way to continue it here. We come here to work, to expand. For me, to create my future here. It’s a new life.” — Eyas, photographer
“People came because they were forced by the war to leave; they couldn’t stay there — they didn’t come here to just live somewhere else. They want to build a new life here.” — Abdul, volunteer at Zaandam’s Fronik Buurtboerderij
• • •
They work hard.
“Sitting at home was killing me. I’m excited to have a chance to participate in Dutch society. We are Syrian people; we are working people. We love to work. We love to make our own money to support ourselves. We don’t like to have to get money from the government. So we need work in order to make a living.” — Esam, bus driver in Zaandam
“We are not lazy people; we like to work. Because of the war, we lost everything. We didn’t just come from nowhere. We were rich, but we lost everything, and now we have to start from zero — with the language, work, everything. A lot of people have good education, but they’re working as a cleaner. We have to start from zero. And I think we have to be open for that, because here we can start from zero. We have to start from somewhere.” — Shatha, NewBees matcher
• • •
They're not afraid to try something new.
“The challenges were the best thing that happened to me during this [new] experience. I know the word ‘challenge’ might not sound positive, but the outcome of the challenge is always positive. Whether you make it or break it, it’s always positive because when you fail, you learn; and when you succeed, you win.” — Ali, coder for NewBees and other companies
“It’s my first time working in a garden. Everything I’ve learned about agriculture, I’ve learned here. And my Dutch is becoming better here. Each day I learn more. I'm going to continue working here. This work is very good for me.” — Taha, gardener at Amserfoort’s Tuinen van Verbinding