As an international school, many of our students, staff and families here at ASH have experienced moving away from our home countries and settling in a new place. This is because we have had the opportunity to do so, and chose that path for ourselves. In our wider community of Wassenaar, there are members of the community who did not have the same opportunities, and these are the refugees who have sought a safer life here. It is often a very long and difficult process and journey to seek refugee status, and in 2020 the journey of a refugee has been further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duinrell in Wassenaar offers temporary shelter for refugees coming to the Netherlands and each year ASH high school students have the opportunity to work with the organizations that assist the refugees during their time here. We spoke with Kiera M. who is working on an initiative to create a library for the refugees, taking into account their mental health and wellbeing during this time.
“I have lived in a lot of different countries around the world. I have seen a lot of poverty, especially when I was in the Middle East I could see the effects of immigration and fleeing war and how that affected refugees. I have participated in the refugee cafe in Wassenaar for over two years now. Offering my support, maybe a cup of coffee/tea or a nice treat, playing a game, having a conversation with them, is, I feel, the least I can do.
I think that it is more difficult for the refugees in Duinrell to learn Dutch, to get to know the country and meet new people during these times. I am really sad that the refugee cafe had to close down due to the pandemic. Hopefully the library can create some sort of comfort and a source of (reading) entertainment. The refugees themselves are responsible for the creation of this library and the books. Hopefully, besides reading joy, it also gives them some sense of responsibility and doing something for their community.
I am really grateful for all the people who have already donated books. We always welcome others who want to be involved in giving away books they no longer read or use. There are some boxes under the staircase near the MS office if anybody would like to contribute to the refugee library. We hope that the refugee cafe will open up as soon as it is possible. When it does, I encourage people who are interested to join on Thursday afternoons.”
We will keep you posted, ASH community, on when this is possible again in the future!