Our latest digital inclusivity project kicks off with a meeting between Mrs Wertheimer (97) and Sarah (30), a truly powerful pair.

The match between Mrs Wertheimer, a World War Two concentration camp survivor, and Sarah, who arrived in the Netherlands in 2009, is a perfect example of the combined strengths of seniors, isolated as a result of Covid-19, and talented refugees. 

The first meeting of the pair, who have an immediate click, is held at the community centre Huis van de Wijk, not far from Amsterdam’s city centre. The occasion is the presentation of a tablet, one of the resources funded by three Dutch foundations: Oranje Fonds, RCOAK and Fonds Sluyterman van Loo. It’s a device that will vastly improve the quality of Mrs Wertheimer’s life. Without self-pity and sharp as a tack, she explains how hard she has been hit by Covid: “I felt completely isolated. I have no relatives here, so I had to get through lockdown all by myself.” The tablet will be her lifeline to her daughter, who lives in Colorado, USA, as well enabling her to keep in touch with local friends, Sarah among them.

While Mrs Wertheimer chats happily with United Way’s Myles Bavin, Sarah explains in perfect Dutch how she arrived as a 16-year-old migrant in Spain with her parents. “This was at the height of the financial crisis. I was keen to study but in Spain there were no opportunities.” She decided to move to the Netherlands, living with relatives until she had found a job that included accommodation. A bright young woman, Sarah is sure to benefit from Mrs Wertheimer’s grit and wisdom, while the latter will get all the help she needs.

What makes the match special, is that Mrs Wertheimer has a Jewish background, while Sarah has been brought up a Muslim. Yet while these two are getting to know each other, one wonders why this should be special. Because the warmth that’s almost tangible between them makes the historic and political antagonism between Jews and Muslims seem very far away.

For additional information please contact Julie Barikmo: julie.barikmo@unitedway.nl

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