Inna fled from Ukraine and works as a volunteer in the second-hand children’s store Luttel & Zuks in Zaanstad

The city in Ukraine where Inna Lazareva (44) lived with her family was heavily bombed in March 2022 and became unsafe. Her husband works as an engineer for a Dutch company for many years, which is why they decided to flee to the Netherlands. Inna participates in the project ‘Participate immediately” of NewBees and OpenEmbassy. Since January 2023 she worked as a volunteer in the second-hand children’s store Luttel & Zuks in Zaanstad.

Inna: “In June 2022, in a Telegram chat group for Ukrainian people in the Netherlands, I found a message from Natalja Smits-Kulichenko, matcher at NewBees Zaanstad . She invited people to workshops about working in the Netherlands. I decided to join. I found the first workshop interesting and instructive and followed up with a second one. I also participated in a survey and an intake interview.”

Enthusiastic about the NewBees Traineeship

Inna: “I studied Ecological Sciences at the Technological Institute in Odessa, with a specialization in the food industry. But I never worked in my field. My oldest son, who is now 19, needs special care and I have another five-year-old son. My husband travels all over Europe for his job, so I stayed home to take care of the kids. When Natalja told me about the NewBees traineeship and volunteering at the Luttel & Zuks store, I immediately became enthusiastic. Because I want to work, participate, be useful and eventually earn money. In Ukraine, my husband’s salary was sufficient to support the family, not here. I see voluntary work as a first step, a great opportunity to participate without having to speak the Dutch language.”

Instant click

Do: “When the war broke out, I immediately contacted Sandrine Lafay (project manager at OpenEmbassy) with the question: what can I do? Sandrine and I worked together at ‘Because We Carry’ on refugee camps in Lesvos and we became good friends. Sandrine put me in contact with NewBees. This is how the idea was born to hire volunteers in the store. Between Inna and us there was an instant click. Language is not at all a barrier. To communicate we use our hands and Google translate! ”

Do (left) & Inna in the second-hand children’s shop Luttel & Zuks in Zaanstad

I am among people and I learn Dutch

Inna: “I like working here. For me it is an escape from the routine and the opportunity to be among people. I work two days a week, five to six hours a day. I sort the clothes by size and color, I iron, place stickers, and hang the clothes in the right place. While working, I hear people speaking Dutch and I learn every day many new words.”

Carry on

Do: “Inna has blossomed enormously in the past few months. At first she was a bit quiet and introverted. But now she feels comfortable, she talks a lot with us and even with customers. It is so nice to see! We are very sorry to see her leave us. But we will certainly continue with the program and hope to welcome many newcomers to our shop!”

Future in Heerhugowaard

Inna: ”I also regret having to stop at Luttel & Zuks. But after living in a vacation home in Oostzaan for a year, we have to move. We are going to Heerhugowaard where we found a house. My youngest son is enrolled in school there, the eldest goes on with his online cooking classes, he wants to become a chef. Fortunately, my husband can continue to work for the Dutch company. I will continue studying Dutch and I am looking for paid work. Natalja put me in touch with a local employment agency where a Russian-speaking consultant will assist me. I hope that the war in Ukraine will end soon. But even when that time comes and for the time being, our family will stay in the Netherlands, where there are better prospects for the children.”

Opportunity for a new life

Do: “Luttel & Zuks is a second-hand children’s store. We sell anything and everything (Zuks) for a small (luttel) amount. My partner and I want to make (social) impact and create opportunities. We give clothes a new life, a second chance. We offer our customers pure coffee that is roasted in prison by the inmates there. They learn a new craft and get a new chance. In the refugee camps on Lesvos, I learned how important it is for people to participate, to remain socially active, to be seen and heard, to feel human and to get the chance to start a new life. We are happy to offer that in our store.”

Participate immediately, without civic integration.

With the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, a new group of refugees came to the Netherlands. These people do not fall under the Civic Integration Act. This situation brings a new challenge, but also an opportunity. The challenge of organizing access to all the facilities we have in the Netherlands, including access to work, in order to build a new life as quickly as possible. And an opportunity to show what happens when people participate directly instead of staying in Asylum Seeker Centers and kept out of society for months and sometimes years before being allowed to participate in integration programmes.

In this project, NewBees collaborates with OpenEmbassy. NewBees specializes in matching to (volunteer) work and participation, OpenEmbassy focuses on all other indicators needed for integration, and specializes in system impact by translating individual experiences into what can and should be improved for the total group of people who have fled .

You can find more information about the project here.

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