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Being a buddy family: ‘Truly a super experience’

In 2018, Welkom in Utrecht started the pilot project Buddy Families. In this project, refugee families are paired with other families from Utrecht. We do this because many of the newcomers need contact with Utrecht families, but do not have it. At the same time, there are Utrecht families who really enjoy getting to know the newcomers. Buddy families cook and eat together, for instance, visit a playground or explore the city and its surroundings. In the process, they immediately practice the Dutch language. It helps the newcomers feel at home here and get to know society better.

Dozens of families have now been matched. Some matches have ended, mainly due to moves, but most are still ongoing. Minke, with her husband Ferry and their three children, is a buddy family of Zahraa and Mohamed who also have three children. They do different things together. “Last Friday I made a nice bike ride together with Zahraa and Tia through the Gagelpolder to Westbroek,” she informed Welkom in Utrecht. “We don’t always manage to meet up very regularly (especially on our part) but the contact goes well and is very nice.”

Buddy families can let us know in advance what they find important for pairing. For instance, we look at the interests and the ages of the children. We like to match newcomers who need it most, i.e. families who have little connection to Dutch society.

Each pairing is different. For example, the families of friends Sheila and Claire are linked together with Natsenet’s Eritrean family. They all have children around the same age. Sheila on the first meeting: “It was really nice today! […] We went to the city farm Gagelsteede, ate ice creams and drank delicious coffee, specially prepared Eritrean style. Truly a special experience. We are already finding it enriching.”

Do you want to know more or sign up with your family? Mail to eline@welkominutrecht.nu