Refugees in Amsterdam integrate around a meal

Living your dream by taking small steps

“Do you want a burger ? It is a vegan-burger, because that is the topic of today’s meeting – but it is not too bad!” A group of young men are joking behind the barbecue as they turn around the burger and sausage shaped vegan products. A bit further down a group is trying a little dance on the tunes of Shakira’s “Waka Waka”. An African family with young children is watching and encouraging from their picknick cloth. A Dutch family opens a can of beer and shares somehow shy, careful smiles with others around them. The sun is out on this Sunday afternoon in the Flevopark in Amsterdam. The group is diverse in many ways. The status of passports is only one of them. Goodwill is the connecting factor.

Sahr John, the organizer, is living his dream. He has now officially established all formal elements around his vision:

“Building and bringing communities together through sport, music, food, dance and cultural activities and be able to support the empowerment and integration of refugees and undocumented migrants to be part of the Dutch society”.

 “Ever since I arrived in the Netherlands from Sierra Leone, 9 years ago, I have felt this was the right thing to do. It is time for us, refugees, to do this now for ourselves. And now I made the first big step. The foundation Diversity House is officially created, we have an official operating status, bank account and have started fundraising to realise the big dream: to have a fixed place in Amsterdam where people from all backgrounds, including undocumented refugees, can have fun together and feel supported”. While working on collecting the necessary funds, John knows that through addressing other elements of the vision, the group can already live its dream. In absence of a venue, John and a group of volunteers, organise ‘pop-up’ events such as todays barbecue for old and new Amsterdammers. Invitations go out on a regular basis to a vast group of followers to come together, informally, around a meal. All bring food to the table, and themselves to the conversation. Because this is about more then food and feel good: “I want to trigger the sharing of stories, for learning. That for me is the importance of coming together”.

The sun goes down on Flevopark with a beautiful glow. People start taking their bike, or walk away. To home for some, or to a place to sleep for the night for those who are without a roof. Sahr Johns hope is that before Dutch grey winter kicks in, meetings can continue in the foundations own venue. While that is not the case, Sahr John and his friends take small but firm steps forward.


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Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on October 29, 2018 at 1:54am

Here some examples of the activities Sahr John and team are organising in order to create a sense of family for refugees, connecting people from diverse communities throug indoor recreational sport programs such as (football table, pool table, mini basketball court, ping pong table) games and other recreational activities as yoga, painting, diversity lessons, African dance lessons etc. "We want to use this project and be able to integrate and bring refugees/migrants with other communities together as one family wherein being a member of this community and family you are encouraged and supported to participate freely/equally, and socialise freely. This proposed project is one of its kind wherein members of the Dutch communities and refugees/migrants come together and make together a family by participating equally in our proposed centre.  This project will help in tackling social inequalities caused by social determinants of race/ethnicity, religion, beliefs, values, language, disability, immigration status, education and promote social cohesion, equality, diversity and inclusion within the Dutch society."

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on October 29, 2018 at 1:46am

This is the board of the foundation "Diversity House" that Sahr John initiated, plus a few volunteers. I'm glad to be part of this talented group!

Comment by Marlou on September 27, 2018 at 1:38pm

The crowdfund platform of Diversity House is now open for you to contribute:

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on September 10, 2018 at 11:44pm

What if all the communities in the world demonstrated the same spirit? This is my first response after reading the blog. Congratulations to Sahr John for his leadership and commitment.

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on September 9, 2018 at 11:30pm


Yes, Phil, I feel the same. Sahr John is so inspiring with the clarity of his vision, and his ability to build and maintain a huge network with people from so many different walks of life:  refugees (with and without papers) from different countries, Dutch students, migrants etc etc. Sahr John has a natural talent to build bridges between communities. People travel from far to be part of the unique Open Meals. 

Blessed be your Diversity House, Sahr John!

Comment by Phil on September 7, 2018 at 11:34am

I am lost in admiration for what Sahr John is doing. I wish Diversity House a flourishing future. 


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