‘I wish for every newcomer a Dutch buddy or friend’ 

Eline Bosch (52), a former high school French teacher in Utrecht, has been a regular volunteer at Welkom in Utrecht for a few years now. The wish had been dormant for a long time to do more than collect for Amnesty International or deposit money to other charities. The large influx of refugees in 2015 made her flip a switch: something had to be done. She started to  volunteer for various projects, including Welkom in Utrecht.

After her son got to know refugees in Utrecht through a school project, and evidently so did she, she decided herself to register with the Verhuispool of Welkom in Utrecht. And successfully, she now leads this group of volunteers. The people from the moving group help refugees to move house when they leave the asylum seekers center in Utrecht to their new home. It is a beautiful and personal project:
‘In that car you connect very intimately: someone starts their new life and I’m there to join them in this moment’

On arrival, Eline always stops by the neighbors, has a short chat and introduces everyone. By the moving group and all other activities she undertakes for Welkom in Utrecht, she has met many ‘beautiful, special and interesting people’, and she grants that to everyone. Via Welkom in Utrecht she also got in touch with a Syrian young man, of which she became a buddy. And Eline is still in contact with him every week: she helps with reading and writing letters, practicing Dutch, actually everything. Very useful to her, for both. ‘I also learn a lot from him! We’ve become friends. And really: I wish every newcomer a Dutchman, a buddy, a friend.’

Every Thursday morning there is a duty to report to the AZC. Then Eline recruits refugees for the activities of Welkom in Utrecht and other organizations with the team members of Welkom in Utrecht, other volunteers and translators. To her, it is very important that people feel seen. When AZC residents with volunteers go to the Centraal Museum by bus, or to the theater or, for example, skate for an afternoon with the employees of a company: ‘the personal and valuable connection occurs fast.’ Building a network is crucial for, among other things, finding a job, Eline believes. And in the end, having work ‘creates a sense of self-worth and independence.’

She also organizes the annual Welkom in Utrecht volunteer dinner. The combination of looking for chefs, volunteers from the AZC who help during the dinner and strolling endlessly over the Kanaalstraat to get all the groceries together, is a highlight for her to bring everyone together in restaurant KANTIEN. Her ambitions are large: ‘I would like to organize a huge dinner for all residents of the AZC in Utrecht in the courtyard of the AZC with chefs from all kinds of countries to connect more people.’

Text: Sofie Croonenberg

  • During the Corona crisis the recruiting at the asylum center stopped due to the safety of the inhabitants of the center.