Integration by working out together: let’s speed it up

Six months ago, the House of Representatives already called on the Cabinet to arrange this. “I think it really helps break down prejudices and help the newcomers integrate and find a place in our society,” says CDA Member of Parliament Hildi Baland. Now that the asylum influx has increased, there is additional urgency. “Let’s make sure we set the pace and make it work.”

The Wereldmeiden project is already underway in Hengelo. Students of the Sports and Exercise program at ROC Twente fill their social service time by exercising for an hour each week with peers from Syria and Iraq, among others. All participants are excited.

Maria from Syria has been living here for a year, but she has very few Dutch friends. “It’s a little difficult,” she says. We instantly clicked with her boyfriend on this project, Maud. It feels like they’ve been friends for years. “We get along very well,” Maude says beaming. “Fun too.”

Bayan – who also comes from Syria and has lived in the Netherlands for four years – also finds it easier to make friends this way. Before she took part in the project, she had hardly anything.

For young Dutch, it is a way to connect with peers who might never have met otherwise. “How do you connect with each other as well,” said Mike, a friend of Bian. “I didn’t know there were so many foreign girls in Twente,” Maud agrees.

So Baland CDA hopes that Hengelo’s example will soon be followed. “You’re really helping people on their way personally, not through agencies but through peer networking.”

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Winton Frazier

 "Amateur web lover. Incurable travel nerd. Beer evangelist. Thinker. Internet expert. Explorer. Gamer."

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