Hooman, A social entrepreneur integrating Dutch people with newcomers

By Nienke Kehrer

“It’s not about having a normal cup of tea. It is about having a profound cup of tea, during which you talk about your dreams and ambitions, the things that link you to the other person.”

That is how newcomers and the ‘settled’ Dutch people should meet, according to Hooman Nassimi. He is a social entrepreneur, who is working on the integration of newcomers in the Netherlands, but also on the integration of Dutch people in a Netherlands with these newcomers.

In 2017, Hooman moderated the Welkom Hier Friesland Festival in Berlikum, with great success. The newcomers and the local people connected and everybody was very enthusiastic.

“It is a great joy to put energy into such a positive event, especially when it works out just right.”

During his assignments Hooman always tries to look for the connection between the newcomers and the established people, to support the newcomers, so they can establish a social and professional network. “This is different for each place you come to. In the bigger cities the people are more used to ‘foreigners’, but that doesn’t mean they are more tolerant than the people in small cities. But the biggest challenge is finding the right way to activate people to come to an event. For example, I organized an event in a really small town, and we didn’t promote it as a ‘get-to-know-each-other’ event, but as a bingo night. A lot of people came and everybody thought it was a great success. But something like that probably wouldn’t work in a big city.”

“The newcomers have to integrate, but the Dutch people have to integrate as well, in a Netherlands with newcomers. We have to do it together.” – Hooman Nassimi, social entrepreneur

Hooman does think a lot of work needs to be done to achieve a society that is tolerant and integrated with newcomers. “The question ‘what are we supposed to do to improve the welcoming of newcomers’ is a very complicated one. For example the law in the Netherlands is pretty ambivalent. There is some national policy, but in the end it is up to the municipalities to decide how to handle the newcomers. This is difficult. The boards of the municipalities have to think about how it will look like in four, fifty and even a hundred years. Moreover, in a lot of smaller municipalities the vast majority of the board has a Dutch background. This is logical, but it also means that they have less empathy for the newcomers. And then there is xenophobia. This has become less over the last years, but it is still there. We have to work very hard to overcome this.”

“This is why local solidarity is important. And that means working hard for – and actually being open towards – what the first article of the constitution states. We can say that we think that everyone should be equal and should have equal chances, but that is not what is happening in our society right now. You have to be proactive to achieve equality and equal opportunity. So not only talking about it, but actually doing it. Integration is a mutual thing. The newcomers have to integrate, but the Dutch people have to integrate as well, in a Netherlands with newcomers. We have to do it together.”

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