Reaching the Unreachable, a Project Initiated by United Way The Netherlands

Project Plan – 20 May, 2020


Background, purpose and beneficiaries

The Corona outbreak and, increasingly, the consequences of this pandemic affect all of us. However, some sections of society suffer more than others. Reaching the Unreachable addresses two of the population groups which are worst hit: refugees and isolated elderly people.

The tens of thousands of refugees currently in the Netherlands have created a community of their own. They are familiar with each other’s needs and issues, enabling them to mutually support one another. Their cries for help confirm a fact UW-NL established some time ago: these recent arrivals in the Netherlands are in danger of becoming victims of their situation for the second time. After they suffered persecution, war and enforced displacement from their homes, the Corona pandemic now threatens to deal them a fresh blow by dramatically reducing their opportunities to find employment. Inevitably, the unemployment rate will rise steeply during the post-Corona period. As the economy starts to recover from the massive shock of Covid-19, refugees will find themselves near the back of the queue of people looking for work. Not only will this slow the process of integration into Dutch society, but it may also lead to depression, poverty, domestic violence, homelessness and social isolation. The action proposed by UW-NL, together with 3M and other partners, will avert this danger for a number of refugees.

Isolated senior citizens are also in dire straits, because for them too the lockdown and social distancing has magnified their problems. Covid-19 has temporarily ended the communal activities livening up the day-to-day existence in retirement homes and abruptly ended all visits. Single pensioners in particular are pining for a hug or a kiss from their loved ones. Many elderly people are frightened, even desperate, and see death looming on the horizon. As the crisis wears on, this situation improves painfully slowly, making it ever harder to bear.

For many refugees and isolated elderly people, psychological issues and mental health problems, which may be pre-existing, are dominating their lives during the pandemic. They are lonely, feel helpless and don’t know where to turn. This is where UW-NL’s ability to create connections can make a difference, for example by offering training and communication services, hardware and supportive human contact. For the time being, we deliver these services exclusively online.


Results expected from the project

The benefits to be reaped from our Covid-19 emergency response plan will be many and varied. The ‘intelligent’ lockdown imposed by the government has kept most Dutch residents almost permanently indoors. Refugees are cramped together in the accommodation provided for them. Limited financial resources, boredom, isolation and dwindling prospects are thrown into stark relief by the imposition of Corona-related restrictions. The psychological and mental health consequences for refugees and the elderly, who are often apprehensive of relaxing their self-isolation, can hardly be overestimated.

Our emergency response plan offers hope as well as practical solutions for both our young and elderly target groups. For the refugees, this includes the provision of electronic devices, online courses to improve Dutch language skills, professional education and cultural orientation training. All this will contribute to much improved mental health and less fear, depression and apathy.

UW-NL is in the exceptional position of being able to guide the refugees participating in this project to steady employment and to speed up the integration into Dutch society for many others. Thanks to our efforts and those of our partners, they will acquire a whole range of skills on their journey towards this objective. They will be able to understand, read and speak the Dutch language. They will be trained in various IT skills. Our focussed training in cultural awareness will not only make them feel at home, but also improve acceptance of their presence and appreciation of their contribution to Dutch society as a whole.

While Corona rages, all our tuition will be delivered online. This will be enabled by the computers we make available. Once the participants have been placed with an employer, on-the-job training and continued support from volunteers will help them cement their position within their organizations. Upon completion of the project, the 30 participants will reap multiple benefits from their training. What’s more, the. 200-odd refugees who initially applied will also have learned something.

While both our target groups have their specific problems, needs and fears, the online services and hardware we offer them go a long way towards a solution for refugees as well as elderly people. For the refugees, these services are executed by professionals, while the elderly will be supported by volunteers. Each well-trained volunteer active for the second group meets his or her beneficiary on average once a week, based on a pre-determined agreement. In addition to providing social contact, the volunteers help the elderly to get out of the house and take part in community activities.

The programme lasts until the end of November 2020, by which time the participants should be able to cope on their own. For as long as necessary, all visits are replaced by video and audio contacts. When personal visits can be resumed, the appropriate social distancing of 1.5 metres will be observed. Our methodology of online delivery has been designed to be immediately reactivated in case a second wave of Covid-19 is on the cards.

Milestones and activities

Reaching the Unreachable will run from June till November 2020. Below are the milestones we propose.

Milestones relating to young refugees

  • 1 June: Companies will be requested to present a list of the job vacancies available to refugees.
  • 7 June: Job openings will be posted online through social media.
  • 21 June: Deadline for applications, expected to number around 200.
  • 31 June: A group of 30 selected refugees will start the tailor-made training programmes.
  • 31 July: 10 volunteers will have finished training as buddies to the refugees.
  • 31 August: Upon graduation from their programmes, the refugees will be presented to employers in order to be hired for vacancies posted in June.
  • 30 September : 20 participants will have found suitable employment. The remaining 10 will have acquired sufficient skills to function satisfactorily in a wide range of jobs.

Milestones relating to isolated elderly persons

  • June-September: Development of communication campaign, to run both at local and national level.
  • August-September: 45 volunteers will have been recruited and trained.
  • September-November: 60 participants will have started a buddy support programme combatting loneliness.

Five-step programme for refugees

This UW-NL project proposes that the refugees selected use the period outlined above to work towards a positive, realistic future in which a job that they could otherwise only have dreamed of is a key element. Our road to employment involves 5 steps.

  1. Our partnership with and Refugee Talent Hub enables us to identify job openings with any one of 30 multinational companies. Another partner,, will post job descriptions online, reaching out to the Netherlands-based community of more than 70,000 refugees.
  2. More than 200 applicants are expected to come forward. However, many of them lack the required skills, educational background or language proficiency. United Way professionals will make a selection of 30 eligible and suitable refugees. Our partner Networkpro has agreed to implement the programme for the women among them. Refugees who are not selected will be placed on a roster for future employment.
  3. Laptop computers, which were kindly donated by Lenovo, will be allocated to all selected candidates to enable them to participate in language classes, on-the-job training and cultural awareness training, which will be given online to prevent participants being exposed to the Corona virus.
  4. Placement of well-trained candidates with selected partner organizations is the next step. The companies that UW-NL has successfully worked with in the past include KPMG, Philips and ABN Amro.
  5. To reduce the risk of early dropout, volunteers from donor partners like Lenovo, Total and Principal Financial Services will act as buddies in the early stages of employment. These volunteers will be trained by United Way.

Communication strategy

We work with, the prestigious global communications firm, to ensure media coverage. This will include online, print and television exposure. Extensive use of social media to reach out to our target groups is foreseen. Volunteers will be trained in communication techniques. Donors and implementation partners will be kept informed of developments through news flashes on our website and updates in our quarterly newsletter. A one-minute video about the project will be produced by a reputed video production company. UW-NL’s social media coverage will feature narratives about the personal experiences of our programme’s beneficiaries.

Value to 3M Partnership

We are convinced that 3M’s support will favourably position the corporation as an ‘active citizen’ in the Dutch community. Supporting refugees, the most vulnerable people in Dutch society, will amply show a commitment in line with its mission statement: to improve the quality of life of underserved families and increase access to youth development programmes for underrepresented youth.

3M’s support will be beneficial to both parties – the cliché of a win-win situation is in this case appropriate. Working with a solid partner such as 3M, now and in the future, would extend our global reach and be something to be proud of. As outlined above, other prestigious corporations have also chosen to be our donors, sponsors and collaborators. Should 3M so wish, we will be happy to connect them with any of our partners.

More importantly, we are always looking for ways to effectively enhance our mission, which is to help vulnerable persons successfully integrate into Dutch society, usually by procuring gainful employment for them. The catastrophic force with which the Corona pandemic has struck our planet is making us feel this mission even more keenly than before.

The following are the main partners enabling us to design and execute Reaching the Unreachable:

  • Edu4U fights for equal opportunities in education for newcomers to the Netherlands. Its courses can lead to further education or to a job, whatever matches the talent and ambition of the individual student. Soon after the Corona crisis hit the Netherlands, Edu4U arranged for all its educational programmes to be delivered online.
  • Humanitas is one of the main volunteer-based social services and community building organisations in the Netherlands. Annually 19,000 volunteers support 74,000 people who are temporarily unable to manage on their own. In the buddy programmes delivered by Humanitas, well-trained volunteers are carefully matched with participants in need of support, with heart-felt personal attention for their every need. The issues addressed often relate to loneliness, finance, parenting and youth support.
  • Netwerkpro wants to improve the professional position of women, with the emphasis on building and maintaining a personal network. To this end, the oganization mobilizes its own network. Netwerkpro finds its beneficiaries among single parents, women on welfare and refugees all over the Netherlands.
  • Refugee Talent Hub (RTH) takes as its starting point the fact that refugees and employers often struggle to find one another, even though refugees could fill a gap in the labour market. Additionally, a diverse staff and management lead to successful organizations. Many refugees don’t have a social network in their host countries yet, and many employers don’t know how to get in touch with refugees. RTH is an initiative for and by employers and public organizations in the Netherlands. It works nationwide, based on the demand of employers.
  • The Tent Partnership for Refugees supports refugees by focussing on the private sector. It works with businesses to develop and implement concrete commitments to support refugees, especially by hiring them, integrating them into supply chains, supporting refugee entrepreneurs and delivering services to them. The Tent Partnership believes these steps are good for refugees, good for the communities hosting them, and good for business.