Get to know the webmaster of this site.
Starting a website is not something that simple. Before it is 'in the air', you are almost a year further. And in the case of this website, Platform Heemstede, it was pretty complicated, because we wanted the website to be really accessible to all new residents. The technical aspect of it was very complicated to realize. But it has succeeded! Then people had to be found who were willing to convert the information into other languages. That has also succeeded! Kiflom will ensure that readers who have Tigrinya as their mother tongue can read everything. Dure will translate all texts into English, Ellen takes care of Dutch and Layla for Arabic. Layla with Ellen are the webmasters and coordinators. Time for a further acquaintance.
We first look extensively at the photo chosen for the website. "That is not just a random photo", says Layla: "After all, it is the path of Freedom”. There are new trees. The symbol for the new residents of Heemstede. Each tree is still supported until it is well and firmly rooted. These are the many helpers who help us on our way. The supervisors of refugee work, the language coaches, the people of the municipality and many others. The photo as a whole, is typically the Netherlands: Tight, everything is well-arranged and organized, the various departments are separated. "At the end, I see 'De Meerlhorst' where old people are cared. This could also be understood symbolically: that the new inhabitants hope to be able to grow old here, at least in Heemstede...
What was, in short, the way Layla travelled before she came here in Heemstede? "I come from an Armenian community in Iraq and lived in Baghdad until 2006 with my husband and two daughters. There I also followed my study as an engineer. Learning the English language was a logical consequence of that. Because of the war in Iraq, we fled to Aleppo Syria. But in November 2013 we also left that and fled to the Netherlands and after living a period in an Asylum seeker Centre in the Netherlands, my husband and I have been living in Heemstede since March 2014 ".
So you are actually a 'double refugee'. If you compare refugees in Aleppo with refugees in the Netherlands, what do you say? "( I ) Fled twice. In Aleppo, they spoke the same language. So that is a relief. You could just rent a house yourself. As a refugee, you did not come into a camp there. You had to struggle in order to build a life there . Everything is arranged for you in the Netherlands. Well organized! But working, for example, is not possible. I have done voluntary work.
That is what I would like to say to all new residents: Go out the door! Do not limit yourself to your home! Look for volunteer work. Meet the Dutch. Talk to them. I myself went to 'De Dorcas'(a second-hand shop) and quickly signed up as a volunteer. I spoke English and did not work in the store as a salesperson, but in the collection and pricing of articles. But I have learned so much from the contact with my colleagues. And if you look at the type of shop what Dorcas is, used stuff, I actually got to know the Dutch people! What is their home? Glasses, plates, chairs, figurines, vases. What is hanging on the wall? You name it. Apart from learning the words, I learned a lot more. Now my Dutch is good and I can help customers in the store. "
If I listen to you carefully, you speak Dutch very well! was this the fourth language you have learned in your life? "Yes, that's right, but I see it as follows: Every new language opens up a new world. For me, the new world is that I used to always put my family first and then I; but now I look more at 'What do I want?' The Netherlands gives every person a great freedom of choice. What strikes me, even in the meantime, is that they are so friendly and helpful, not only for new residents but also 'nice' to nature. The animals, the trees, the plants. Actually the whole environment. Your waste separation, Awesome!. And cycling here .....Delightful! Because I speak English, I was able to survive in the Netherlands. But the written text is something else, of course. Inscriptions on the street, signs in shops. The papers! But I studied hard and passed the State Exam at level B1. "
Do you watch Dutch television, for example? "Yes, only, I sometimes turn on Teletext page 888. Then you get subtitles. That is good to learn: You hear the text and read the text at the same time. Now I barely watch any Arabic channel. My body is here, so my head must be here too. But it is also a bit of protection for myself because of course there is always a piece of my soul in Iraq. "
And what is the purpose of this website? "We want to put current issues on it; things that are happening now in Heemstede or where you can go. Or what is good or useful to know about living in Heemstede. We want a section with 'Do you know that ...?' About the history of Heemstede. We would also like to receive tips about everything and about
what to put on the site. We hope that the people who visit the website come up with ideas, which they think is good for other residents to know. That is possible in all areas and that can be submitted in all four languages! We ensure that it will be available in four languages. "
Layla, thank you and good luck with this site. I'm going to keep an eye on it!
The other webmaster.
You got to know Layla a few weeks ago, now it is time for a conversation with the other webmaster, Ellen. Since managing a website is a whole job, Layla does not do that all on her own.
Ellen, who are you and how did you end up at this place?
"Well, I have lived in Heemstede all my life and, after working as a medical analyst, I now regularly babysit my grandchildren and work as a volunteer at the Ronald Mac Donaldhuis in Leiden. The Ronald Mac Donaldhuis is for parents of seriously ill children, they choose to live there so that they can be close to the hospital. As a volunteer you are responsible for making beds, doing the laundry and creating a pleasant environment in the house.
In September 2015, I was at the information evening that the municipality organized about refugees in our town. It was a lot in the news at that time and I was so ready to help those people. When the municipality launched a platform that evening and asked people to think about how they could contribute, I immediately signed up"
Can you tell us more about the Refugees Platform? The information on the site is very brief.
"We want the new residents to feel at home in Heemstede. We want to offer support to make it more comfortable to live here in this town. The social workers of Vluchtelingenwerk have their hands full to arrange all business things for the status holders. We want to do the things that Vluchtelingenwerk does not have time for. We organize various activities, such as high tea meetings, a picnic in the Meerpark and we design and manage this website. "
The Platform has about 20 volunteers, but on the evening that we meet (the second Monday evening of the month) we are usually only with eight people. One is more active than the other, as in every group of people. Ellen calls on this: if you think that you can make a contribution, or if you have a good idea, come and talk with us for an evening. Let me know that you want to come via the contact information on this website. "
Then comes a 'subcommittee website' and that is why we are sitting here. How do you find the topics to write about?
"We come up with that ourselves, but we also sift through the local newspapers. Often one comes from the other, as much information as possible about events in the neighbourhood and Dutch holidays with dates. Free events especially. So that it can really help people. Since Layla herself is a new resident and comes from outside Europe, she looks with a different eye on things than I do. She can sometimes better estimate whether a subject is suitable for the viewers or too complicated.
By the way: Ideas are most welcome! Writing is not a problem that is what I do, but some an idea of what to write about would be nice. " The good thing about the website is that all texts are translated into Arabic, English and Tigrinya. "
In general: Do you get a lot of reactions?
"The website is being visited more and more according to the statistics, but we do not know what people think about it. We would like to know that, because we do everything it with great pleasure."
A website also has a technical side. How do you manage that?
"The website was developed by students of the Hogeschool Haarlem under the guidance of a teacher. Initially we thought that they will be further managing the technical side of the website. However, the Hogeschool has been pulled out and the technical stuff is done professionally. "
Are you spending a lot of time on this part of your volunteer work?
"Layla and I come together at a fixed time per week to come up with new articles and to plan new things. Then the articles are written and edited. I am responsible for all the Dutch texts. Then Layla provides the translations. I also communicate with the 'technical person'. So, it fills the week nicely!