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The language café is so much more than practising Dutch

The language café is so much more than practising Dutch

What can you do in the face of all the suffering refugees have to carry?

When on top of the difficult situation they come from, there is also the pain of a terrible natural disaster in the homeland and the worry for their loved ones who are not with them. Many Syrian and Turkish refugees have relatives, friends, neighbours or other acquaintances who have been killed, injured or made homeless. And that touches us deeply, too.

How do you respond to this as a concerned Utrechter?

In our language cafes, there was extra support for each other, with heartwarming hugs upon entering. “Not everyone could articulate his or her feelings because of the language barrier, but you felt the warmth and attention for each other. In difficult times like these you see what a special bond many volunteers have already built with their buddies. The language café is so much more than practising Dutch,” says Nicole, our volunteer in the PKN language café.

“Just the feeling of being surrounded by people who care can ease a lot,” says Syrian Halima. Halima has been taking language lessons from two neighbourhood residents at one of the language cafes at the Star Lodge shelter for months. She practices Dutch with these two women, and it clicks and Halima feels comfortable with them. After the earthquake, her language buddies sent her a message. Was her family in Syria okay and had anyone she knew been victimized? The language buddies then came to visit her. Together they drank tea and talked a bit. “It was simple, yet so comforting,” says Halima. “I have no family here to go to for comfort. So it’s these meaningful connections we make along the way that make the difference in situations like this.”

Welcoming refugees and making them feel at home is often about small human gestures. Walking together, practicing Dutch or just having a cup of tea and being there when the other person needs it.

Would you like to mean something for refugees? Sign up as a (language) buddy or volunteer in one of our language cafes.

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