After the summer holiday, the cross-fertilization that is Joining Forces picked up speed at a gathering in Amsterdam.

On a sunny September day, United Way the Netherlands hosts an event to which scores of refugees have been invited. Nineteen of them arrive on our screens, and two have taken the trouble to be present in the flesh. One refugee travelled all the way to Amsterdam from the provincial capital of Den Bosch.

Combiwel, a local open door organization where Amsterdammers of all ages can drop in for a cup of coffee and more complex forms of help, receives us in a comfortable meeting room. Four Combiwel employees make lively contributions to the presentations. The purpose of the meeting is to clarify our project Joining Forces, which matches refugees with isolated, technology-shy senior citizens. Combiwel’s help in identifying suitable elderly people is essential to the success of the project.

After a word of welcome from our director Machiel Salomons, programme officer Myles Bavin explains the ins and outs of Joining Forces. Machiel then lists the advantages to the refugees of participating. After successfully completing the programme, some of them may benefit from our network of contacts by landing themselves an internship or even a job. Myles broadens the subject by explaining what the Salesforce business training is all about. The combination of a Joining Forces certificate and the training puts refugees well ahead of other candidates in any recruitment process.

Plenty of time has been reserved for questions from the audience. In the course of this, it becomes apparent that some refugees already speak excellent Dutch. Many of them are students, and some already qualified in their home country for professions such as doctor and economist. Those who express concern about having to travel to Amsterdam are reassured. After all, our key partner for this project is called the Internet Society Foundation. The first time they meet their matches, the refugees present them with tablets donated by us.

After the meeting Samir (left), who has lived in the Netherlands for three years, says he is looking forward to being matched with one of the elderly people: “It will be a good way to practise my Dutch. I think I’d become ill if I didn’t have something useful to do. I love meeting new people and spending enjoyable moments with them.”

For additional information please contact Isabel Harrison: isabel.harrison@unitedway.nl

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