This is why they participate in Samen Hier

The Samen Hier community is growing! In the four cities, more people are participating: as Welkom Group members, cultural ambassadors or as supporter. They are all convinced that Samen Hier makes it possible for newcomers and locals to form long-lasting connections. And, no matter how simple this sounds, that is exactly what they need.

This year, Justice and Peace started Samen Hier: a new and unique initiative in the Netherlands for community based integration. In the cities of Almere, The Hague, Haarlem and Rotterdam we match groups of five Dutch people with a newcomer of newcomer family, after which they hang out together for a year and build up lasting contact. “Samen Hier is about: what does integration mean if you consider it not as an assignment for the refugee, but instead as a collective process for the society as a whole?”, says Maaike, programme coordinator of Samen Hier. In such a mutual integration process, newcomers feel at home and learn the language faster, and find a job more easily.

But what are the personal motives for people to participate in Samen Hier? We asked Samir Hasan Alghazzawi, Omar Munie, Marjan de Gruijter and Hansje van der Zwaan, who each have a different role within Samen Hier.

One of the refugee newcomers participating in Samen Hier is Samir Hasan Alghazzawi. Samir (36) is from Iraq where he was a women’s- and LGBTQ+ rights activist. However, he started to receive threats from the Iraqi government for the work he did and had to flee his country. Since one and a half years, Samir has lived in the Netherlands, of which the past 6 months Haarlem. He tells us: “I barely have contact with Dutch people, only via the Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland and COC. It’s difficult to meet Dutch people if you don’t speak the language. Participating in Samen Hier gives me the opportunity to practice my Dutch, meet new people, and learn about the Dutch culture. As a human rights defender I really believe in this project. I also hope that it will be possible to find a job via Samen Hier. I would like to continue my work as a human rights defender.”

Marjan de Gruijter, researcher at Platform Integration and Society (Kennisplatform Integratie en Samenleving) and member of the advisory board of Samen Hier, confirms the importance of social networks: “in every research on integration, a recurrent topic is the need for normal contact with normal people, the need to have friends. A range of professional organizations are involved in the integration process of refugees. Although these contacts are invaluable, they all revolve around help. Refugees almost unanimously state that they want to be part of a social network. This makes them more self-reliant and helps them to shape their own existence. Samen Hier facilitates contact with normal people, as well as the opportunity to build a reciprocal friendship. This is something that I contribute to which pleasure.”

Hansje van der Zwaan from The Hague, who started a Welkom Groep with friends and colleagues, tells us that she and her friend were already looking for opportunities to do something for a refugee in The Hague: “I don’t meet refugees on a daily basis in my direct environment, or maybe I do, but I don’t recognize them. Samen Hier makes it easier to make connections – thanks to this project, we can help someone to find their way in Dutch society and to make personal contacts.” “On TV, you hear all kinds of things about refugees and how badly they are treated. I want to open up, find out what their story is, and not just only their story as a refugee.”

Omar Munie, bag designer and founder of Omar Munie The Hague, is one of the ambassadors of Samen Hier: “I am a Samen Hier ambassador, because next to hard work and courage to dream, newcomers also need a network to find their way in the Netherlands. They need to make contacts with their fellow Dutchmen.” Omar speaks from experience; he too fled his own country: ‘Samen Hier, that’s my DNA. Back in 1995, when I was building a new existence as a Somalian boy in  the Netherlands, my neighbour showed me the way. Thanks to her, had the chance to become who I am today.

Do you also want to get involved in Samen Hier? You can do so in The Hague, Haarlem, Rotterdam and Almere.

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