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"We became like a family"

"We became like a family"
By Aurora Velez
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Close bonds have developed between refugees and local people taking part in the innovative 'Plan Einstein' programme in the Dutch city of Utrecht

They consider themselves neighbours in Utrecht. 

For a year now, Maaike Wit has been giving entrepreneurship classees as part of the 'Plan Einstein' programme in the Overvecht district of the city. 

That is where young Syrian refugee Dema Kadre is learning Dutch and where she prepared her candidature to go to university.

"We talk to the participants. We see what they need for their professional ambitions and then we have workshops, coaching," explained Maaike, Project Officer with the Social Impact Factory.

"We try to expand their professional network by linking them to a local hospital for medical students or introducing them to local entrepreneurs.

"Our programme is 'future free' so it doesn't matter if you stay in the Netherlands or not, everything you learn here will be useful everywhere in the world.

"It’s not me helping them and them having to say 'thank you'. It really becomes a cooperation and everyone has a responsibility and feels ownership to be here. I like a lot that I’m part of it and that I learn a lot about my own city but also speak to people from all over the world.”

Dema, 21, admitted that in the first two days she felt lonely as she didn't know many people.

"But when I came here and met new people everyday, we became like a family," she said.

"I have some Syrian friends in the asylum centre and people from different nationalities also. I have also some Dutch friends who I met here in the 'Plan Einstein'. Because when I came I was totally lost. I didn’t know where I should begin so, together, we tried to know what I want to do and how to apply to university.

"Now, I have already applied and have been accepted in one of these universities and I will start in September so, yeah, I’m so happy now!"

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