A project addressing the issues of refugees and isolated seniors in the Netherlands, with generous support from 3M
The Corona outbreak and its consequences affect us all. However, some sections of society suffer more than others. Reaching the Unreachable addresses two of the worst hit groups, refugees and isolated elderly people. In both cases, mental health issues frequently crop up.

The many thousands of refugees currently in the Netherlands are in danger of becoming victims of their situation for the second time. After they suffered persecution and enforced displacement, the Corona pandemic now threatens to deal them a fresh blow by dramatically reducing their opportunities to find employment. As the economy starts to recover from the massive shock of Covid-19, refugees find themselves at the back of the queue of people looking for work. Apart from slowing down their integration into Dutch society, this may lead to depression and social isolation. With its partners, UW-NL is in a position to avert this danger for dozens of refugees.

Isolated senior citizens are also in dire straits, because for them too the lockdown and social distancing have magnified their problems. Many of them are pining for social and physical contact with loved ones and carers.

For both refugees and isolated elderly people, mental health-related issues often dominate their lives while the pandemic lasts. They simply do not know to whom to turn. With the much-valued support of 3M and other partners, UW-NL is able to create connections that can make a difference. For the time being, we deliver our services exclusively online.

Expected results

The benefits to be reaped from our Covid-19 emergency response plan are many and varied. The project offers hope as well as practical solutions for both our young and elderly target groups. For the refugee’s online courses to improve Dutch language skills, professional education, and cultural orientation trainings will be provided. UW-NL is in the exceptional position of being able to guide some participants to steady employment and speed up the integration into Dutch society for many others. Thanks to our efforts and those of our partners, they will acquire the skills required to reach these objectives. Approximately 200 refugees will benefit from the training, because they will be better equipped to find jobs. At least 30 participants will actually have found employment. UW-NL will arrange for volunteers to help those in jobs to cement their position within their organizations.

To help isolated elderly citizens, our second target group, we work in close cooperation with Humanitas. Volunteers trained by this large NGO regularly meet the elderly people assigned to them. In addition to providing social contact, they help the beneficiaries get out of the house and take part in community activities. When the project ends, at least 60 elderly people will have started a buddy programme.

Our approach is specific to each target group. For example: the services extended to refugees are delivered by professionals, while the elderly are supported by volunteers.

The programme starts in June 2020 and will be ongoing. For as long as necessary, face-to-face training and visits are replaced by video and audio contacts. When regular services can be resumed, the appropriate social distancing will be observed. Our methodology for online delivery has been designed to be immediately reactivated should a second wave of Covid-19 occur.

Five-step programme for refugees

The road to employment that UW-NL has mapped out for the 30 selected refugees involves five steps.

  1. Our partnership with The Tent Partnership for Refugees and Refugee Talent Hub enables us to identify job opportunities with one of 30 multinational companies. Our partner Edu4u will post job descriptions online targeting the Netherlands-based community of refugees.

  2. From the 200-odd applicants expected to come forward we make a selection of 30 refugees. Our partner Netwerkpro will implement the programme for the women among them. Those not selected will be placed on a roster for future employment.

  3. Electronic devices, kindly donated by Lenovo, will enable all selected candidates to participate in language classes, on-the-job training and cultural awareness training, which for the time being will be delivered online.

  4. Placement of trained candidates with appropriate partner organizations is the next step.

  5. To reduce the risk of early dropout, UW-NL will train volunteers from donor partners like Lenovo, Total and Principal Financial Services to act as buddies in the early stages of employment.

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