Connecting local responses around the world
“Hey, we want to be part of this. We are here. What can we do?”
The newly trained SALTy facilitators who carried out a first round of living room conversations in February were pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome and smiles with which people in ‘de Fier’ opened their doors for them.
The Fier is one of the newly built apartment buildings in Zeeburgereiland, a new island/neighbourhood that arises from the water in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Among the new habitants there is a nice portion of ‘New-Amsterdammers’, individuals and families with a refugee background. The municipality, housing corporation and VluchtelingenWerk (the Dutch Council for Refugees) concerned about making the new neighbourhood a place where all habitants find common ground, asked the Constellation to introduce the SALT approach to an enthusiastic facilitators team.
Warm cheeks and glittering eyes conveyed the positive energy during a first learn and share meeting with the facilitators, after they had visited the first 12 households. All twelve doors were opened, and behind each door a human conversation had taken place.
Sometimes the visiting team, consisting of one ‘Dutch’ neighbour and some-one with experience as a refugee, found people who felt ‘lost’ and lonely. The neighbourhood is far from finished and provisions such as shops and play fields are hardly in place yet. There is little or no contact between neighbours and one does not know where to start. The visited people were glad to find in their visitors an ear for their concerns.
In some households it was felt that the fact that the scaffolding is still standing in Zeeburgereiland is very symbolic, and a message of hope: ‘We left Aleppo behind us. Our home and neighbourhood was completely destroyed. There was fire, destruction, despair. Now, here in Amsterdam, we look out of our window and we see the new future taking shape”.
Hope was also found in small, but big, events. “This week for the first time a Dutch kid came over to our house, playing with the children”, conveyed a mother. This is my dream: that the house will often be filled with voices from children of the neighbourhood - playing together”.
The dream of the Nigerian weightlifter is to be a role model for the youth. His visiting neighbour is now determined to link him up with the developers of the sports centre who from their side were looking for input from the inhabitants.
Most of the newcomers seem eager to contribute to building their neighbourhood and the opportunities are immediate. The conversations started opening the doors... and the hearts!