NewBees Perspectives: How a Trip to Lesbos Inspired the Formation of NewBees

October 19, 2018

Above: the first NewBees team working on plans for the organization

 

Story by: Annemiek Dresen, NewBees Founder & Director

 

“I found purpose in making a case for participation during the asylum application process."

 

Each week, one of our staff members publishes a blog. This week it’s my turn, and I feel quite some pressure because so many fun and interesting blogs have already been published. So, I decided to start my NewBees blogging career with a personal story from the start.

 

Going, seeing and learning

 

I ended up on a beach in Lesbos in December 2015 because I wanted to do the right thing. Just like many people on that same beach, I had seen the news about large numbers of refugees crossing the narrow stretch of Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Greece that previous summer. I felt like it was my duty to engage, so I traveled to Greece to lend my support on the beaches of Lesbos where small dinghies packed with people arrived every morning.

 

On the beach, I met so many interesting and talented people among those who had just crossed the sea. The diversity in talent and strong will to make something out of life was surprising and even uplifting, despite the harsh reality of the situation. People were excited to start moving north and begin their new lives. Their journey would still be a long one, however, filled with bureaucratic hurdles.

 

The road ahead of these newcomers to find a new home, a new start and a safe haven meant they had to travel far and long. But reaching Northern Europe would not be the end of their journey. In the Netherlands, people piled up in refugee camps, waiting for a long asylum procedure — during which work, study and even volunteer work were not allowed.

 

Above: the first NewBees team working on plans for the organization

 

Making a case for participation

 

Having to wait, unable to do anything, and being kept from contributing to the world around you is one of my worst nightmares. I enjoy action, work and making myself useful to the world: I need a sense of purpose. The thought of having to sit in a refugee camp without anything to do scared me a little. So after my return from the beaches of Lesbos, I found purpose in making a case for participation during the asylum application process.

 

I walked in to a refugee camp in Zaandam and started asking people about their backgrounds. Responses were interesting and fun: we chatted about past experiences and dreams for the future. So, I decided to start looking for companies and organizations in the neighborhood who could make use of those experiences. From that, an organization was born: NewBees.

 

Then and today

 

Now, nearly three years later, most newcomers no longer live in refugee camps. They are building their lives in one of the three Dutch municipalities NewBees works in. They’re eager to learn Dutch and build a network.

 

NewBees looks for ways to open up the labor market to their talents and match them to our Traineeships at Dutch companies and organizations. It’s how we work towards a more inclusive society where everybody belongs, and it makes me super proud to see all that we’ve accomplished. It also makes me want to talk about all the dreams and plans we have as an organization (there are a lot!), but let’s save that for another blog.

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