Refugee Voice

In Cooperation with Samen aan, Road of Hope is helping status holders to focus on building a bridge between their previous work experiences and a new professional identity which better reflects the reality and the demands of the Dutch labor market. In this edition we interviewed one of the participants that has been impacted by this initiative.

Rana Norman is a 39 years old Yemeni woman, who has resided in the Netherlands since 2015.

ROH – What was the most difficult thing for you when you first arrived in Europe?

Rana – Since I appreciate the diversity of mindsets, I can’t really relate to just cultural differences. Language is a big barrier for me and it’s really difficult. Not finding people to talk with on a daily basis makes this even worse. There is no social life or work opportunities where someone can develop their language skills more effectively, which makes this a very complicated challenge.

Volunteer work or social work is not fun to do when it becomes an obligation. In my opinion, it is good to volunteer however, you don’t get the chance to really know the subject or problem in-depth. Opportunities for volunteering work also remain limited. Having access to the employment system in order to become independent is an obstacle for a person like me. It’s not only in terms of making money, it’s also about finding a suitable environment in which I can grow and develop, and as such earn what I deserve. 

ROH – How did you learn that Road of Hope and Cooperation Samen aan de Slag were giving workshops and orientation? Why did you decide to join?

Rana – My contact person at the gemeente suggested I attend. Even though I liked the name Road of Hope, I was hesitant to initiate contact with the organisation as I didn’t have anything to say. A few days later, I was contacted by the founder, Patricia, who explained to me more about the different programs that Road of Hope offers refugees, especially women. During our conversation, I was explaining to her that I was interested to learn more about the Dutch accounting system which has been described as difficult and complex compared to other countries’ accounting systems. I was curious, wondering why would it be difficult and what makes it different from the global accounting system? I also wanted to develop my language as well as my learning skills. Becoming a professional accountant that all sectors require is practical in the long term, and I was willing to tackle the challenge it posed me. I like finance and I have limited experience working in the field. 

On the other hand, I have extensive experience working in business management and administration and I never considered accounting before or thought of its importance. As I have become older and moved to a new country, I’ve realised how important accounting is. I hear everyone talking about it who describe it as a lot of work and a hassle. This can be true but part of any work is organising, so if I learn or work in this field, I will learn new important skills that the whole world can rely on, especially if I am trained and taught by good teachers. I do believe I can be good at it and that it can give me the future freedom to work in different sectors or even enable me to set up my own firm. 

I would like to understand how this world functions and what’s the actual meaning of trade, customs, taxes, compliance, and why they are important for small, medium sized or big enterprises or how states supposedly function to benefit their citizens. I will learn more about the legal system and how regulations work and develop. Getting to learn more about this will provide me with the confidence to handle things at a higher level, on how or where to spend money and how to make it. I would like to create opportunities and merge businesses, and would love to guide people on how to set up their own businesses and why it is important to give it a try. I have been thinking about this for a few years and have been reading about or watching seminars of financial experts or professors. It’s part of history too.

By chance it happened that Patricia mentioned to me that there is a workshop to be held soon with experts in accounting. I was really excited to find this out and decided to give it a shot to see what I would learn from the workshop.  

ROH – What was the most remarkable about Road of Hope for you and why? 

Rana – I liked that the Road of Hope is organised, that it brings together people from different backgrounds and that it encourages women and the youth to start over. I noticed during the workshop that the people I met are serious about what they do and are dedicated to human values and development. 

I noticed that Road of Hope tries to find paths for highly educated people who have more experience or those who are about to start their professional life. It tries to work on enabling people who are willing to learn to develop their career in the field they studied, or help those who decide to shift to another career or would prefer to develop a new skill. It was a valuable experience for me to meet experts that want to know more about people’s hopes and ambitions, or about those who seek to make a difference for themselves and for the community they live in. 

ROH – How do you feel about your life at the moment? What do you hope to achieve next? 

Rana – I used to love dancing in the rain but in the Netherlands, there is too much rain and high humidity. I have learned the language and finally have the required diploma, even though I am not satisfied with the level of language that I reached as I know I could have done better. After three years of studying Dutch, I should have been speaking and writing the Dutch language easily, however this doesn’t come naturally to me and so I have to study a lot. Interacting with people in Dutch on a professional and a personal level is essential for me as I learn through studying and practicing. I can’t memorise things by just repeating and I have to understand words properly first. For me, when I understand, everything automatically sticks in my mind.  

Lately, I’ve learned that in life nothing comes easy and I must be patient. Yet, I believe that I am nearly there and am hopeful that things will become better in the near future and if it’s not going to happen soon, then I have to keep on trying.  My goal is to try hard to make this happen.

ROH – What positive message do you have to give to people who also want to develop themselves or their business in a new country?

Rana – Staying in touch with your contact person is important, especially if they are nice and understanding. Even if they are not, you should ask them anything you want, tell them what bothers you or what you don’t like, or what has to change about the system. Believe that this is your new home and your country, and so you are also responsible and have a crucial role in this society. Speak your mind and always be true to yourself.

I haven’t started my own business yet as it’s not that easy. However, there are many ways to start your own business, the Gemeente have plans and offer programs for people with limited resources. There are also courses that you can follow. Seek jobs that fit your skills and experience. Ask for what you want and find ways to prove to yourself that you can overcome any hurdles. Believe that your time will come and you will do it. Never give up on your dreams, and work harder to make them real. 

ROH. What changes do you think are still necessary in society, in order to help refugees and allow them to play a more active role in their communities? 

Rana – Diversity is healthy and change has to be made based on collective shared decisions that are assessed by individuals and committees, with respect for society’s need to progress efficiently.  Regulations can change in a positive way to suit everyone. Based on experience, this depends on the mindset of those in powerful positions. More job opportunities are available in all sectors, providing “refugees” with an environment in which we can monitor and evaluate ourselves.  Offering stability and paid jobs in suitable environments is one key factor for ensuring healthy and stable surroundings. If me, you or others think that others are not representative or not qualified, then train them before joining a prospective job. 

Taking the time to provide others with the required training courses  for work. Try to work closely with them to see them develop and make sure that your investment paid off.

We can’t force people to change. Changing is a mindset. We can facilitate programs and make sure that these programs are available for everyone. Isolating people or building separate communities is not beneficial for anyone.

People in general have to understand that a refugee is a worthy human and not lesser than others, they contribute to any society they live in and they are the components of any land they become part of. Even though being a refugee is not a shameful thing, it is not a choice either to become one and building a new home is not easy. Home is where you find yourself feeling safe even if it’s boring or maybe you don’t like it, or you feel like a stranger. The people of the country are your new family whether we accept it or not. We don’t have a choice and we all have to deal with it. Let’s make it beautiful by focusing on our similarities.

Facilitating a new market, building bridges in the business community and forming partnerships in a new area or a region, is not only important for the global economy, it also contributes to increasing social cohesion. It draws attention and awareness to our fundamental values and existence as human beings. No matter where we come from or where we end up. It is important for everyone whether in the East or the West to give and take with openness. Global cohesion is the key towards achieving sustainable development goals. Our role within the social, political and economic sectors as active players and partners can play a major role within our surroundings and/or where we originally come from. Taking advantage of each other  imbalances everything and all of us should be aware of repeating this mistake, which could lead to dysfunctional societies.  Let’s work together in building the world for generations to come. 

ROH –  What are your hopes and dreams for the future? 

Rana – “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever” WALT DISNEY

I try to live by that idea, since the very moment of being born.

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Rana Noman has background experience as Researcher/ Business Strategy and Development Consultant in the MENA region, she is a Founding member of The Yemeni Women Solidarity Network, Founder and Chairwoman of Yemen Organisation on Women’s Policies (under-establishment).