A smooth landing in the Netherlands

Flyktingar i Europa möter fientlighet. De stoppas brutalt vid gränserna, utsätts för grovt våld eller lever under omänskliga förhållanden i tillfälliga läger i hela Europa. Det är dags att skapa förändring! Liksom Jan-Willem and Liselore, finns det många medborgare som  sitt dagliga liv visar solidaritet med flyktingar. Nu är det upp till våra politiker att skydda flyktingar och förändra det misslyckade systemet. Hjälp oss och höj din röst! Ge solidariteten en chans och skriv under namninsamlingen: https://givesolidarityachance.org/se

Jan-Willem and Liselore were happy to open their home to a refugee. They applied to be a host family and soon proved to be a match for a Syrian man named Dawood. Dawood has been living with the couple and their two children for the last three months. Dawood: ‘I no longer feel alone in the Netherlands.’

Full asylum seekers’ centres

‘The children were not enthusiastic right away. “A refugee in our house? Why?”, they asked. ‘Because we can help someone’, we answered. Still, I understood their reaction. The word “refugee” is something abstract, a term from the news, an image on television. But then Dawood (28) came to visit, and the children saw an ordinary guy who, like them, loves football. And then it was fine.’ 

Jan-Willem (48) recalls how he and his wife Liselore (46) had been tossing around the idea for some time: What if we offered a refugee temporary shelter in our home? The news was full of reports about full asylum seekers’ centres, and about refugees not being allowed to start civic integration while they are still living there. Still, with two teenagers in the house, it was important that they too would support the idea. 

Jort (14): ‘“We have the space, we can help someone, and we won’t lose anything because of it”, my parents told me. Well, I had little to say to that. I was afraid it would be weird to have someone in the house, but it wasn’t that bad. It’s really very nice having Dawood around.’

Skipping the test weekend

Building a life in the Netherlands as quickly as possible was Dawood’s plan after he got his residence permit. ‘But that plan would never succeed if I stayed in the asylum centre,’, the Syrian explains. ‘There, I lived in isolation from everything and everyone. I wanted to learn the Dutch language, to sample the culture and traditions of this country. That’s why I applied for a host family through Takecarebnb (see box, Ed.).’

Liselore speaks about the first introduction to Dawood, which went so well that she and Jan-Willem skipped the usual ‘test weekend’ process: Dawood was immediately welcome. ‘I thought that was so special’, Dawood recalls. ‘Still, I was a bit tense those first few days. What would it be like in their house? Would I always have to be cheerful, put my best foot forward? But soon everything felt very comfortable: here I can just be who I am.’ 

‘We were very lucky, it really has been effortless’, Liselore adds. ‘Dawood is very sociable, flexible and active. That suits us because we both work full-time, and our children go to school and then on to their sports clubs. As a family, we can mostly provide space and a friendly meal, rather than arranging things for him. It helped that Dawood speaks English, which we also felt was important so the children could communicate with him. But Dawood is so motivated to learn the language that we only speak Dutch now.’

Two houses

Dawood is in a hurry; that much is clear. He will complete his intensive language course next week, after which he will immediately start medical (language) courses. He is making every effort to start working as a dentist, his profession, as soon as possible. He recently got the key to a house in Den Bosch, where he will move in a few weeks.

Dawood: ‘Jan-Willem told me, “Congratulations! Now you have two houses in the Netherlands”. Those words meant so much to me. I’m happy to have my own house, but sad at the idea that I must soon say goodbye to this family. Liselore is like a mother to me, my Dutch mother.’ Liselore: ‘You will keep the key to our house, and I hope you’ll still come and eat with us often.’

‘How decent of you to do this!’, the Brabant couple often hear from those around them. ‘But if you just try it, you’ll probably find that it’s not that difficult at all’, Jan-Willem says. ‘It helps to have an open-minded attitude. Liselore and I certainly hadn’t thought out or analysed everything in advance. Helping someone doesn’t have to be complicated. I hope we’ve conveyed that message to our children as well.’ He smiles and pokes his son. ‘And it was a bonus that Dawood’s arrival gave them a great example in terms of discipline and studying hard’.

‘As a newly arrived refugee, I felt very lonely, a foreigner in a strange country’, Dawood says. ‘But now I have people I can rely on. I no longer feel alone in the Netherlands, and that feeling is priceless.’