On the 25th of February Seats2meet UtrechtCS hosted an event named; Syrians2meet. During this event entrepreneurial Syrian refugees were invited to talk with local entrepreneurs about how they could reinforce each other. I wanted to do something to help the integration process of the Syrian refugees.I decided to capture some of the amazing stories these people brought with them to be able to show dutch citizens the positive side of their arrival to our country.
My name is Imad. I am from Syria and am 22 years old. I studied IT in Syria. I got in The Netherlands one year and a half ago and live in Houten. I didn’t have the opportunity to work in Syria. When I finished my studies I fled from my country. In the Netherlands I found nice and friendly people, here are a lot of chance and opportunities. In September I will start my bachelor studies in Utrecht. For the future I expect to graduate and find a nice job. After that I am thinking of opening my own software company with friends. From here I see a brilliant future. What I want people to know is that being a refugee is not a choice. There are a lot of people who look at us like we are from Mars. This is not right. We are all people. We might not have the same culture, habits and language but at the end we are all human beings.
“The children are the future!” O’don Wani Isunga is committed to mentoring and coaching children, he has worked for seven years as an mentor (?) and coach with troubled young people and (underaged ?) asylum seekers. Ten years ago O’don came to the Netherlands as a political refugee from Congo. Now O’don created his business OudNieuwsmetO’don. A service company, which focuses on the recycling of old materials, so an important part of the accumulating clutter is reduced. The materials he focuses on include cardboard, waste paper, scrap metal, wood, old electrical parts, and so on. In short, a company that deals with the future and a green way of life.
My name is Amany. I am from Syria. I am 25 years old. I was working in Syria as a nurse. I have been here for 3 months now. For the last 3 months it as been hard, we have been trying to learn dutch and study. Is boring to not having a job, be sitting. For me is very hard because I used to work in Syria, after that I went to Lebanon and also worked there, so this is the first time in my life I am not working. I hope I can continue my studies and find an internship quickly. Some people think Syrians don’t have any background. We studied, we worked, we went to universities just as people here. Some traditions are different but we are more similar than we think.
My name is Feras, I am 41. I am Syrian and have been in Holland for 10 months now. I used to be a graphic designer there. I brought my family with me; my wife, my daughters and me. So far The Netherlands had treated me really well. It Is an amazing country; amazing and friendly people. They all respect my family and me. I want to do something in return to this country because I was so welcomed. I hope to have a job and make more friends. I have 3 daughters and I want to give them the opportunity to study and have diplomas, the best future for them. I know that there are a lot of propaganda against refugees and at the same time some of them do bad things. They do not stand for all the Syrians. Our people love and life and want to do good things. If you want to help us just sit with us for a little bit, hear what was our problem, why we got here. After that make you decision of what you think of us. I really want to thank The Netherlands and dutch people for welcoming me.
My name is Mohammed, I am 22 years old. I live near Utrecht. I have been in The Netherlands for one year and two months. I studied information management in Damascus University and also worked with IT. Here in The Netherlands I am a volunteer for the red cross so I meet a lot of people. I am preparing to do my Master here. About the Syrian they are really cool people you just have to get to know them. If you want to help us the best thing is to help teach the language. Give us a voice. In Syria the only ones that are losing are the people.ii
My name is Esther; I am 28 years old. I am working for the new dutch connections. That is an organization that is working with refugees. Their goal is to make them take the advantage of being here, even if you are isolated on a camp without access to work or study. We try to find alternative ways to get them started in their new life. As a dutch person you hear in the news that there are lots of Syrians coming over so we have to do more border control, keep them outside, do this, do that. Truth is whatever you think they are here. There is no way of keeping them out. What is happening on Syria is horrible. You should ask them what they went through. Is beyond our imagination. Now they are here what we should is ask ourselves: what are we going to do about it? You can either say you don’t them here, say that they are from a different culture, they don’t understand the language or we can say: now that you are here what can we do and can you do for us so we can integrate as a society. The fact is that those people are survivors. They took a risk to make something of their life, so for them is awful sitting around and waiting for other people to making decisions for them to get started. This should be the other way around. Let them start tor themselves, give them the opportunity. They can learn from us and we can learn from them as well. The most important thing right now is to meet them, go talk to one another and build trust, ask questions. We are curious and they are as well. In that way we can also know in what they are good at and create even more opportunities.
“New opportunities with an ancient material” Koen van Oostende is talking about hemp. The industrial variant, which was used (for a long time: dubbelop met 1000s of years) in many cultures for thousands of years. This variant can’t be smoked in order to become high. Over the past 100 years, this version of hemp has fallen out of favor, and is now making its comeback. The Hemp Collective is working with Syrian refugees to improve its website and presentation. Two talented Syrian designers also created a 3D model for Koen’s start-up company
Photographer: Michiel Ton Event Photographer
Inverviews by: Beatriz Bremer
More pictures of this event: Here