“Masks For All Refugees” aims to donate more than 500 masks to the refugee community in Amsterdam, through running sewing workshops which empower women and teach them a new skill”
Motivated by a need to support refugees’ mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, Road of Hope has created a series of workshops for refugee women in order to produce more than 500 cloth masks, which will be donated to refugee families in The Netherlands. The first session of “Masks for all Refugees” (#Masks4AllRefugees) took place on July 30, and was followed by two more workshops on August 21 and 22. All of them were attended by a mix of Dutch locals and refugees of different nationalities.
Due to the increasing rate of coronavirus infections, wearing face masks has become mandatory in taxis and on public transport since July in the Netherlands. Since August 31, face masks are no longer mandatory in crowded public spaces in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, yet this rule could be easily reintroduced if infections rates increase. However, the initiative to create this workshop came weeks before the government’s first ruling on face masks, as part of a project called Breath of Hope, which works to provide psychological support to refugees.
Through the #Masks4AllRefugees workshops, Road of Hope aims to empower and teach refugee women a new skill while at the same time, giving them a sense of solidarity and offering them an opportunity to protect their families, themselves and the refugee community. For Jennifer Eversen, who came as a volunteer, the workshop was a much more fulfilling experience than she expected. “Not only could I give my time to this great initiative but I got so much back in return. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be of much use since I don’t know how to make face masks and cannot sew. But the wonderfully skilled people around me showed me how to use a sewing machine”, says Jennifer who works as director of services at Benelux.
The last session also attracted the attention of the local media. A press team from NH Nieuws attended and described how “Between the sound of the sewing machines, you can hear a pleasant mix of Dutch and Arabic. They are working hard to make 500 face masks”, states an excerpt from thereport that was published on their channel on the same day.
In order to continue these workshops, the foundation has created a fundraising campaign on Go Fund Me! From the donations, Road of Hope can provide all the materials and take safety precautions in order to protect all the participants.
You can also take part by donating any amount of money at www.gofundme.com/f/masks4allrefugees. The next workshop is coming soon in September! So stay tuned on our social media!
About the Breath of Hope Project
Breath of Hope was created as a collaboration between the different activities of the Relationship Development Program (RDP). It aims to empower women by providing opportunities for self reflection, integration and coexistence with the local community and for the processing of feelings and traumatic experiences. All the activities of this project aim to stimulate the development of emotional wellbeing which is linked to self-awareness, assertiveness, independence and resilience.
This week, Road of Hope interviewed Farah about her experiences as a refugee in the Netherlands. Originally from Damascus in Syria, Farah has been living in Amsterdam for the last five years with her husband and two daughters. She has recently passed her Inburgering (Integration) exam.
Road of Hope – You have faced many struggles as an asylum seeker and then a refugee. Would you feel comfortable telling us about this and how you were able to overcome it?
Farah – The biggest difficulty I encountered was the language barrier whenever I went to a doctor’s or hospital appointment.
Road of Hope – Can you tell us about one of your fondest memories from living in the Netherlands? Also, what do you most like about Dutch culture?
Farah – The most special moment from my time in the Netherlands has to be when I gave birth to my young daughter, who is a constant source of strength and energy. At this point, I didn’t have many special experiences as I struggle to communicate with a lot of people because of the language barrier. I love Dutch culture, their respect for people and respect for the law. Everyone in the Netherlands is treated equally.
Road of Hope – What messages of hope do you have for individuals who, like you, are starting their life in a new country and are feeling fearful or uncertain?
Farah – The most important message that I can offer to people coming to the Netherlands is to learn the language, then more of the language and then even more, and not be shy about pronouncing words incorrectly.
Road of Hope – What further changes do you think society needs to make, in order to better accommodate refugees and allow them to play a more active part in their community?
Farah – There should be more effort made to help refugees learn the language of their new country.
Road of Hope – How has participating in the Breath of Hope project helped your life in the Netherlands and your integration into Dutch society?
Farah – Road of Hope helps women integrate into society; they teach the language, and they help us communicate during important appointments by translating on the phone or going with us to the appointments. I think the most important thing about the foundation is that they speak everyone’s language; Arabic, Dutch and English. Through the Breath of Hope project, I also took part in sessions with a psychologist. The sessions were a lot of fun and are of great benefit for a person in a new country, who doesn’t know the laws and haven’t got a family to help them with their problems, for example, how to deal with teenage children. The psychologist helped me with any question or problem I had, with compassion and understanding.
Road of Hope – What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Farah – I hope to finally learn and speak the language well, and to see my children achieve a high level of education.