Salam was 18 when he fled Syria in 2015 and came to the Netherlands. First, he lived with his older brother in Amstelveen. A few months later he moved to Tiel. In the beginning it was strange and difficult because suddenly he was all alone. Salam is now used to doing everything independently. He says that is part of the Dutch culture. Thanks to the NewBees traineeship program, he does an internship at the Mikado Foundation. Mikado offers a wide range of activities and services in the field of well-being for the elderly, young people, caregivers and volunteers.
Horizon Foundation in Tiel established to help newcomers
Salam: “When I came to the Netherlands, I took language lessons. But what really helped to improve my Dutch was doing volunteer work and taking acting lessons at the ROC in Tiel. They offer a special course for newcomers. For one of their projects, I performed about 12 times in theaters across the country. Acting is my hobby. In addition, together with a friend, I set up a foundation in Tiel that offers support to newcomers, the Horizon Foundation. From my own experience I know what problems and needs newcomers have. That’s why I know how to help them.
“I had been studying for six months and hadn’t found an internship yet when I got to know NewBees. They arranged an internship for me at the Mikado Foundation”
“I never worked in Syria, but I notice that the work culture here is very different. For example, if you are looking for work in Syria, you go directly to the shop or factory and say that you want to work there. In the Netherlands you have to write a very professional motivation letter and CV, and without mistakes! I understand this, but at the same time I find it complicated. The employer decides without meeting you whether or not you will be invited for an interview. This is especially difficult for newcomers (refugees) because we have to deal with a lot of prejudice.”
Internship at the Mikado Foundation via NewBees
“I study Social Work at the HAN (Hogeschool van Arnhem & Nijmegen). Every year we have to do an internship to meet the school assignments. I had been studying for six months and had not yet found an internship when I got to know NewBees at the theater project ‘How I Got Talent for Life’. I went for an intake interview with matchers Hussein and Bastiaan and told them about my ambition, that I like to work with newcomers. They arranged an internship for me at the Mikado Foundation.”
A new experience
“I had never worked with the elderly or with people with mental disorders. It was a challenge for me. Bastiaan advised me to do it in order to gain a new experience. I’m glad to have followed his advice. I work two days a week. One day I accompany the elderly in activities such as gardening or carpentry. The other I’m working on a project for newcomers. I organize workshops for newcomers where I provide information about the education system and about Dutch culture and rules. That is going very well.”
Working at the probation service or studying law
“So far I’m getting good grades. Studying costs me a lot of time because everything is in Dutch. After my training I can work in the probation service. But maybe I’ll go to law school. I aspire to a role in politics, where my involvement would bring about positive social changes for vulnerable people, also newcomers. In the Netherlands many people live in loneliness. Not only newcomers, but also the elderly. I would like to do something about that. It is still too early for me to make a definitive choice, but I know that nothing is impossible in the Netherlands. That gives me peace.”