As a refugee, you sometimes have to start from scratch

CULEMBORG • Kezban Karagoz is a Turkish woman who has been in the Netherlands for about 1.5 years. She fled Istanbul and left behind her husband and 3 children. Fortunately, she was reunited with it just a week before this conversation. Incredibly robust she is and how far she has managed to develop in 1.5 years. She receives support from Sevda, neighboring coach at ElkWelzijn, and Leerhuis. She is also active as a volunteer.

On the table in front of Kezban lies her notepad with the word ‘flood’ in capital letters. Back from her last language course at Leerhuis. “The word is difficult for me to pronounce, but I know the meaning. Not only from the Dutch permanent battle against the water and the increasingly frequent floods, but also from Istanbul. There, the drainage system in the city has not kept pace with the rapid growth of the population. Many, often poorer, parts of the city are regularly flooded. ” It immediately becomes a very animated conversation. Still in English, even though it’s already packed with Dutch words. Compliments to someone who has only been to Holland for such a short time.

Start over
Kezban is a young, well-educated woman: an academic degree in journalism and in the use of new media. In Istanbul, she had a good job and good prospects. She explains: “When I arrived in Holland, I was alone as a woman and had to start all over again. My education was worth nothing anymore, my experience no longer spoke, my work did not speak and I also had to start all over again as a person. And I had to having left my family, relatives, friends, colleagues, everything. My children of 4, 7 and 10 years did not understand why I had to flee to Holland. “It was not logical for them, impossible to explain. It made my start extra difficult. ”

Make yourself useful and instructive
In Culemborg, Kezban ended up at Leerhuis. “I felt at home there very quickly. Not only because I got to know Sevda Memik, ElkWelzyn’s neighbor coach, with whom I ‘clicked’ and who can understand my situation. But also because I could make myself useful in the Learning House and “develop myself further. Not only can I practice the Dutch language there, but it also helps me with my integration. I have contact with people of all nationalities there, and I learn a lot from that.”

to help others
Kezban is humble. She not only works with her own integration, but also helps other status holders with it. Turkish, but certainly also Syrian and Ukrainian peoples. At Leerhuis, but also as a volunteer to prepare shelters and to receive refugees on Bellweg. In addition, she is still active with Bartje. “It’s so nice. There I am in the middle of the Dutch and Culemborg culture. A very nice, but above all pleasant way to quickly integrate and learn the language well.”

And if that was not enough, she still helps with the cooking for the neighborhood meals in the Wijkcentrum de Salaamander. “It is also very nice because you meet all kinds of nationalities there and therefore eat multiculturalism from the Turkish, Moroccan, Syrian, Ukrainian (etc.) cuisine. “Oh yes,” she continues almost casually, “I also became an active member of a committee that promotes cultural diversity for women.”

Stay in Culemborg
“When I arrived in Holland, I traveled a lot by train and took a lot of pictures. One of the pictures was of a very nice town along the railway: Culemborg. So when I was placed in Culemborg I was pleasantly surprised. Even though I come from Istanbul (20 million inhabitants!) I would not want to live in a big city like Amsterdam right now.

Here in Culemborg it is open, green and quiet and people are also very warm. My kids are also completely surprised that here is so green. And that they can just drink from the tap. Not dirty or unhealthy. But also that they should not go to school or make friends with me. All things we were not used to in Turkey. ” Kezban would therefore like to stay in the Netherlands and in Culemborg.

Develop further
However, she would like to further develop in her old field. She will try to validate her PhD, to develop further in the use of new media. And I want to continue with photography, image editing and blogging. It reminds me of my father, who also did that work, but who died during the stressful period when I had to flee. ”

In short: Kezban has enough plans, and there are plenty of opportunities for her to (continue) work in different places.

Want to know more about how ElkWelzijn helps newcomers discover their living environment and participate in society? See

text: Frans de Bruijn

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