The sun is shining, straight through the trees and onto my face. I feel the warmth and I squint my eyes. I am sitting on a bench, thinking about the interview I just had with Ahmad Damour in his home.
The Global Goals are about the world, the future of the next generation, and the year 2030, and possibly beyond. But what about today?
Ahmad, a 31-year-old man, is working toward his future and that of his family since fleeing Syria in 2011. Initially, he tried to eke out an existence, alone, in Saudi Arabia by working as a marketing and sales coordinator for an aluminum en powder coating company. Then he left for Turkey to build a life with his family by going back to school, learning the Turkish language and assisting at a refugee camp. Only, the chance for employment and a future were still missing.
It is August 19, 2015, when Ahmad departs with very few possessions, leaving his family behind, to begin his journey to the Netherlands. He travels by boat, by car, on foot, by train… finally in Amsterdam, he approaches the police to ask for help. With a train ticket in his pocket, he is sent to Ter Apel. His first impression: the people are friendly and helpful.
On September 9, 2015, Ahmad arrives in the refugee center (AZC) in Rosmalen to begin a new chapter in his life. Exactly one year later, he is given the keys to his new home in Den Bosch, a house that needs a lot of work.
Ahmad is sitting in his chair, smiling. He tells me how he has spent the last two months fixing up his house and at the same time he is learning the Dutch language. It was his teacher who introduced him to Marieke Kool, a member of JCI Quadrivium.
Marieke was looking for local ways to assist refugees with approved residence status. His teacher, the sister of a friend of Marieke’s, brought the two of them in contact. The help in setting up his new home was more than welcome.
Everything will be fine. Two years ago, everything was hard. In my heart, I am happy. I am trying, and I have hope.
When Marieke asked him what else she could help him with, he shared with her his desire to join a group of people to speak Dutch. Two worlds came together and an introduction to JCI Quadrivium was the result.
Ahmad became an official JCI member at the beginning of 2017. It was a unanimous decision to present him with a one-year membership. The idea originally came from Erin Bouwen during the General Assembly in The Hague, out of a conviction that you can help someone and offer that person a learning experience.
The impression Ahmad has after six months as a member of JCI Quadrivium is that “the people are very nice, and they want to help. I feel safe.” When I asked Ahmad what he has learned in that time, his immediate reply is, “Be yourself.”
Ahmad’s resume was passed around to chamber members, and everyone was asked to use their network to help him find work. And it worked. In February, Ahmad started work at Admicom, a place where he can learn a lot from friendly colleagues, in the language as well as the use of software.
An idea quickly sprang up within JCI Quadrivium to organize a 1000 Chances for resident-status refugees. It didn’t take long for the first candidates to sign up, through Ahmad, of course. The apprehension some candidates feel is quickly turned around into something positive by Ahmad: “Maybe it’s a chance!”
We chose an approach that would offer enough flexibility to adjust for these participants’ special needs. The first evening was all about understanding their backgrounds and what kind of work they would most like to do in the Netherlands.
This was followed by an evening with a networking training, a skills game, role-playing with a recruiter from Manpower, creating profiles on various job listing platforms, a company visit to Ricoh and, finally, networking drinks.
We are proud, looking back on this first edition. Everyone is enthusiastic and the first networking conversations are happening. Dreams are beginning to become reality. I ask Ahmad about his dreams. His reply: “a master’s degree in IT, to stay in Den Bosch, and to visit my family in August.”
And I am sure he will make that happen. Never lose hope. #thisisjci.