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Cheerfulness instead of pain and stress

For the newsletter of Plan Einstein we interviewed Ashebir. A welcome guest at a lot of Welkom in Utrecht activities. For a long time he was not doing well, but since six months he is doing much better mentally and physically. This is partly due to his participation in various activities of Welkom in Utrecht, from massages to yoga. Read his story below.

Ashebir (60), born in Ethiopia, has lived in the Netherlands for 28 years, the last 12 of which in azc Joseph Haydnlaan. For years he mainly sat in his room and led an almost invisible existence with a lot of pain. About four years ago, he managed to do volunteer cleaning work for COA, but due to health problems, he had to stop doing this and could not really do anything anymore. Since six months he is doing better. He now goes to yoga, gets massages and goes out in his mobility scooter again. ‘I am happy with the change. It makes a lot of difference and I am confident that things will get even better again.’

Welkom in Utrecht got to know Ashebir during ‘the recruitment’ where they give information about the activities offered to asylum seekers. This happens every week when the residents have to report to COA (Central Organ for the Housing of Asylum Seekers). Because he led a rather isolated existence, they brought him to the nearby House of Dominicus, where he received Dutch lessons from local residents and met new people. Because of his health problems, however, after a few times, he stopped going.

However, he now faithfully attends Iyengar yoga weekly, offered free of charge by a yoga teacher. This brings him much relief. An employee of Welkom in Utrecht brought him the first period to the yoga school where he still gets one-on-one guidance. Meanwhile, he goes there independently. ‘Now I have much less pain,’ Ashebir says. ‘It’s very good, especially for my back. I also sleep better because of it.’

Ashebir also gets massages, which a volunteer gives to asylum seekers through Welkom in Utrecht. ‘That woman helps me well. She really takes her time,’ he says. ‘And it’s not only good for my body, it also brings peace to my head.’

This is very important, because he is very worried and stressed. ‘I haven’t seen my family for 36 years. My wife was put in prison in Ethiopia for eight months a while ago and my children for four months. Now they are free again, but how powerless I felt because I couldn’t do anything for them.’

Still, he keeps faith that things will work out, that he will get a residence permit and he will see his family again. His faith in God sustains him: he prays every night and every morning when he gets up.

Little by little he is now trying to rebuild his life and be positive. It helps a lot that he is helped to go out and make use of the activities available. His eyes light up when he thinks back to the Africa Festival he attended in early October – again with Welkom in Utrecht. He enjoyed the live music, the dancing people and the people he talked to there. ‘The atmosphere there was so good – then you become happy yourself!’