WHY did we embark on this project?

In addition to providing direct support ourselves, United Way the Netherlands also looks for ways in which vulnerable groups can help each other. Joining Forces is a good example of this. Elderly people, our first target group, frequently feel lonely and isolated. Corona-related restrictions have made such feelings more acute, particularly because many of these people have a limited grasp of modern communication devices. 

Refugees form another section of the population that has been disproportionately hit by ‘the new normal’. Their chances of social integration and suitable employment have drastically diminished. By bringing isolated seniors and refugees together, we want to create a better quality of life for both groups.

WHAT does the project entail?

The elderly participants are carefully matched with refugees and trained volunteers. By drawing on the resources of our partner Edu4U, which provides training courses for newcomers to the Netherlands, we are expanding the number of refugees involved in this project. Working with elderly individuals gives them a sense of pride and self-respect as they contribute towards building a more connected Dutch society. Subsidized access to educational programmes also helps them understand local values and practices.

Among other things, the refugees and volunteers help senior participants acquire the technical skills they need to keep in touch with family and friends, join clubs and networks and feel part of modern society. As they build self-confidence, these seniors find it easier to leave their homes and discover new ways to socially interact. The electronic devices the elderly people need are made available by Helpdigitaal and other partners. Online support is available in case these tablets, which have been specially adapted, cause problems for their users.

While this project was our initiative, we developed it jointly with United Way in Spain, who took an important share in its implementation. To get the programme financed, the support of our partner ISOC, an American NGO, was invaluable.

WHAT RESULTS have we achieved so far?

The outcome of our cooperation with United Way España was that a total of 300 individuals in the Netherlands and Spain are reaping the benefits of Joining Forces.

HOW do the participants look back on the programme?

The positive comments and compliments from senior citizens and refugees in both the Netherlands and Spain keep us motivated to press on with this successful programme.

Marina Brouwer (not pictured) was a grateful participant in Joining Forces. She sent us her heartfelt thanks: “I am so glad to have been matched with Samah. She taught me so much!”

 

 

WHERE do we go from here?

Joining Forces, which started as a small offshoot of Reaching the Unreachable, has shown what benefits can be reaped from working with other branches of United Way, which can be found all over the world. We invite our colleagues abroad to let us know if we can cooperate in any way. 

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