Marieke is impressed

Marieke is impressed

(post by Marieke Helmus; photo: Ibtehal and her son)

Marieke is impressed
Iftar, 29 March, annex of the St. Anthony of Padua Church, City Centre, Nijmegen

This atmospheric evening remains engraved in my memory by the enormous turnout of newcomers and the very enthusiastic efforts of everyone who contributed to this evening.

What a whoppers these are:
Chef Amr al Bokaie and his team, who cook a delicious meal for a hundred people.

Ibtehal Al-dholay, who previously worked as a TV presenter in Yemen, talks about the goal of the evening: ‘Connecting and strengthening each other’s well-being and health together.’ Her daughter, Tamar, takes her role as a nanny very seriously.

Feras Faysal, an international health specialist and pharmacist, is the coordinator of the evening. He works with my colleague Katrien Pouls.

Artist Mohamed Yousry and colleague Abdelrahman get the whole room in cheerful interaction with their quick passing on drawing assignment.

Mohammed and Raslan enrapture the audience with Islamic Nasheed and traditional Arabic songs.

Ronald, a social worker and living in the asylum seekers’ centre, helped to realise this large turnout through app groups and personal invitations.

The Iftar is organized by the Dar al Yasmin Huis van Jasmijn, #groengezondeninbewegingnijmegen and Pharos foundation. Corné van Iersel, who founded the foundation together with Basima, tells the audience that it is an organization of and for newcomers who want to find their way in Nijmegen. Many newcomers give workshops and lessons to each other from this foundation. I have been working with Dar al Yasmin for four months to see if we can intertwine their offer on well-being and our offer on quitting smoking.

When the fast is broken, attendees give their opinions in different languages on what they need to reduce stress and improve their well-being. I tell the audience that I like to talk about smoking and stress. When I say that by smoking I also mean Shisha, Snuss and Vape, a laugh rolls through the room. Quite a few people come by for a good conversation.

My message: there is an enormous talent among refugees and status holders, who if they are given the space and resources can very well contribute to well-being and healthy living themselves.

Thanks for the beautiful photos, Luc Satter.

Marieke Helmus is the creator of the #Rookvrije Neighbourhood Approach by #Pharos and #GGDGHORNederland. She reports on an irregular basis about her encounters with #rookvrijewijkaanpakkers throughout the Netherlands. She is actively involved in the approach in various asylum seekers’ centres in Nijmegen.





What reasons do you have for getting out of bed in the morning?
Maybe you have obligations, such as a job. Or children; hopefully they are a reason to wake up with a smile. Perhaps the best reason is lust for life.

What about when all these reasons are missing? Or what if it doesn’t really matter what you do? Then it is good to pick yourself up and pick up your life. That is not so easy when the life you were used to leading no longer exists. When you are new to a country, when you know few people, have no network, no fixed habits.

We want to support newcomers, and especially refugees, in starting their lives. And feeling better about themselves.
We do this in different ways. By organizing and offering activities, for example creative workshops and yoga. And by providing information and tips on how to create a positive mindset or feel better about yourself.

We are also happy to offer newcomers a place as a volunteer. Because we believe that giving to others, being part of a community, and a sense of belonging are important to feel good. It’s nice to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.




Storytelling – a transformative sunday evening

Storytelling – a transformative sunday evening

About our last workshop Storytelling one of the participants, Daniel Constantinescu, wrote this story, we love to share:

A Transformative Sunday Evening

This Sunday evening, I was on a journey that would unexpectedly reshape my perspective on life. As a student of international social work, I am accustomed to engaging in community service and leading group activities. However, this time, I stepped into the role of a participant, ready to immerse myself in an experience that would challenge my preconceptions and leave me with a newfound appreciation for the power of human connection.

As I approached the venue, a wave of uncertainty washed over me. I had no prior knowledge of what the event entailed, and my mind buzzed with questions about the activities, the atmosphere, and the potential for enjoyment. Despite not being in my most cheerful state, I held onto a glimmer of hope that the evening would prove to be worthwhile.

Upon opening the door, I was greeted by a surge of warmth and camaraderie, dispelling any lingering doubts. The room was a glow with soft lighting and adorned with vibrant decorations, reflecting the infectious energy of the organizers and participants alike. The initial awkwardness I felt quickly evaporated as I was welcomed  with open arms, offered refreshments, and invited to join the lively conversation.

The workshop commenced with an air of excitement and anticipation, each segment carefully crafted to foster engagement and understanding. The organizers skillfully navigated any  potential resistance, ensuring that everyone felt included and respected. I found myself deeply immersed in the activities, captivated by the innovative methods employed to encourage participation and transcend cultural barriers.

The participants, a diverse blend of individuals from various backgrounds, contributed their unique perspectives and experiences, creating an atmosphere of genuine camaraderie and laughter. My initial apprehensions about age gaps and cultural differences swiftly dissolved as we bonded over shared humor, collective learning, and a sense of shared purpose.

Throughout the workshop, I was struck by the organizers’ unwavering commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. Their dedication to fostering a sense of belonging and empowering others was evident in every aspect of the event. I found myself inspired by their passion and unwavering belief in the transformative power of human connection. As the evening ended, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to participate in such an enriching experience. The workshop had not only broadened my horizons but also reaffirmed my commitment to pursuing a career in social work.

I left with a renewed sense of optimism, believing in the potential for positive change through collective action and empathetic understanding. This Sunday evening transformed me from a mere participant to an active contributor, a learner, and a believer in the unifying force of human connection. The  workshop’s impact resonated far beyond the boundaries of the venue, leaving an indelible mark on my heart and mind.

Daniel Constantinescu

MASTERS Education

MASTERS Education

We have written about it before: if you want to work for your dream, you can join MASTERS Education.

This institution offers online education and personal guidance. There is also live (classroom) education for people closer to home.

We focus specifically on newcomers and our education is adapted accordingly. We have four learning routes: MASTERS, languages, entrepreneurship and personal development. And the great thing is: most teachers are also newcomers. They are therefore experts in finding your way in Europe.

In this article we would like to provide an explanation of the MASTERS learning concept. MASTERS is an abbreviation that stands for:

M – mathematics
A – arts
S – sciences
T – technology (and engineering)
E – earth matters
R – reflection
S – storytelling

The disciplines of the first 5 letters not only offer you support in finding a future, but the knowledge of those subjects is also very internationally oriented. If you like it, you can easily get in as a newcomer.

Because most newcomers have experienced quite a bit, we don’t want to limit it to lessons about technology, etc. That is too much at a distance. We want to create personal connections in our education. That is why we also pay a lot of attention to reflection (= the way in) and storytelling (= the way from inside to outside).

Learning by doing

Learning by doing

Newcomers must be able to participate quickly in the Netherlands. A job or education are important conditions for full participation. K!X Works helps (young) adults connect to the Dutch labor market by getting a paid job directly or through the right training or volunteer work.

K!X Works is a welcome addition to the need of government and society to quickly integrate newcomers. They are not familiar with the Dutch education system and often have difficulty finding work. K!X Works gives young newcomers more knowledge about training and the labor market. The K!X Works participants undertake all kinds of things. They visit companies and schools. They work on skills such as communicating, presenting and networking.

During the process, which usually lasts three months, the participants are intensively supervised and trained by Movisie and by volunteers who came to the Netherlands as refugees. A coach from the business community helps young newcomers to expand their network. At the end of the process, the young people receive a certificate.

Pandora’s box

Pandora’s box

This is a time of multi-crisis: war in Ethiopia, Syria and Ukraine – political repression in Eritrea, Afghanistan and Xinjiang (Uighurs) – failed states in Libya and Somalia – heat, drought, forest fires and floods around the world due to climate change – all kinds of personal unfreedom in large parts of the world… it resembles Pandora’s box, with which disasters were scattered around the world.

Who was that again, Pandora? She is a woman from Greek mythology, created by supreme god Zeus in a bigger plan to punish humanity. At her wedding, she received a gift from all the gods, including a vessel (later mistranslated as a box) in which all disasters were stored. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about it, as long as that barrel remained closed.

Of course, you guessed it, Pandora opened that barrel at some point. All disasters spread around the world.

Pandora quickly tried to close the barrel again, but it was already too late. Only hope remained in the barrel.

This is not the place to discuss this myth in detail, but there is a parenthesis that is worthwhile. The myth has everything to do with the creation – with the existence – of humanity. Supreme god Zeus didn’t like that man at all, but Prometheus created man anyway. And he helped him by giving him the fire he had stolen from heaven. That was the reason for Zeus to create Pandora — to punish us and make our lives more difficult.

Moral of the story: as humanity, we are in control of our lives – with the brainpower we got from Prometheus – and also with our curiosity (another gift Pandora received at her wedding), but it doesn’t happen by itself.

Now to our initiative, the Dream Agency. This initiative is supported by love for humanity. For who we are. Shut up, Zeus! We are here and we are staying! We love people with all their imperfections and their dreams and desires. The Dream Agency is about being there, that you can speak out, that you can dream and pursue your dreams.

Our Dream Box is not far removed from the opened Pandora’s box: in it the hope has been left behind. With our initiative we appeal to that hope, to your curiosity and wonder and to the power that is within you to realize your dreams. You can tell us about your dreams. We support you in realizing them.