Enschede, The Netherlands

Knowledge is freedom

At our foundation, we believe in giving people not only safety but also opportunities to grow and flourish. Providing jobs for newcomers and people at a distance from the labor market is one of our core ambitions.

Story by Anca Axinte
26-10-2022
Est. 6 minutes

At our foundation, we believe in giving people not only safety but also opportunities to grow and flourish as individuals. Providing jobs for newcomers and people at a distance from the labor market is one of our core ambitions.

However working at Sheltersuit Foundation is only a step in their personal progress, and we strive to give people the tools to achieve their full potential.

We create impactful products, with the help of people that in turn we are compelled to help as well. We noticed that speaking the language is an important component of their growth and success, not only at work but also in their day-to-day life.

Speaking to each other is a key to understanding, a way to form connections, build trust and feel comfortable.

Thus, we went on the search of finding someone that could create an environment where people could learn freely at their own pace while still making huge steps in understanding the Dutch language.

“We believe in making people feel safe.
Knowing the language can help them be
more comfortable, create bonds, and solidify their work.”

– Youp
Ingrid and Jamal

Ingrid

We met Ingrid while she was giving lessons and we were impressed by her approach. Teaching from a practical point of view, so people can enhance their talent while working more easily due to the freedom of communication.

Ingrid has substantial experience in working with people at a distance from the labor market. She works for other companies with a similar background. On 20 September 2022, she started working together with us.

When people face daily work activities, they need to be able to conversate freely, know the terms at work, and ask questions that will support them in their work and development. However, that cannot be achieved without a level of basic language understanding.

“It is a big challenge for people to start speaking when they are afraid to make mistakes. A way to work around that is by talking to them independently so they can practice one-on-one and then bring that sense of comfort during the course and outside in public.” – Ingrid

“We now focus on having conversations with everyone for one hour before starting the course. This way, we get to talk about their leisure activities and support them in any other way they need help, be it with the doctor or legal appointments, or just having someone to practice small talk with.”

Her main objective is to create a state of comfort with their environment, themselves, and each other while working.

“I believe in teaching people how to build patience with themselves and their progress and resilience while making mistakes,” Ingrid lets us know while smiling and looking proud at all the people in the room she was teaching.

“It is beautiful to see how someone can improve their life so much so that they can grow and be free, and communication is a key aspect for it.”

– Ingrid

“Ingrid has a lot of patience with all of us.”

– Jamal

Every week, on Tuesday and Thursday there are Dutch lessons at Sheltersuit for the employees and volunteers, starting from 11:30 until 12:30. We find it important for them to be able to attend the meetings during working hours.

“What I love the most about being able to speak the language is that I can help my children with their homework. I have a background in software engineering, so sometimes I dive into mathematics or physics with them, and we do it in Dutch.”

– Karam

Karam

Karam has been working in our factory for the past 5 months. He has been in the Netherlands for the past 5 years.

He is one of our most dedicated students. He gets extra “huiswerk” because he just wants to have a future where speaking the language is easy. Not just for himself but also for his children.

In 5 months he moved up from a beginner level to an intermediate level.

Besides helping his children with homework, getting any paperwork done for Gemeente is not a matter of discomfort anymore. Calling or doing groceries is also a different and more pleasant experience once speaking the language.

He is now training to improve his grammar, so he is getting weekly exercises and spends half an hour extra with Ingrid to do listening and speaking exercises.

In Syria, he has been working in the software and hardware engineering field for 25 years. His hope is that one day he can reintegrate into this field in The Netherlands.

Until now he has always encountered the same answer: “you must speak the language”. Many would give up and feel defeated as learning a language is quite a challenge many would not dare to take on. He, however, made it his goal.

Jamal

We met Jamal 6 years ago. He did not speak Dutch at all but we were impressed by his skills and dedication to working and creating thoughtfully.

He served in Iraq for 5 years before coming to the Netherlands. One day, a tank fired so loud he lost hearing in one of his ears. He told us the story softly, while impatiently trying to go back to work.

We got to witness how strong and driven he is when even with hearing limitations he would be the one to ask most of the questions during the lessons. He would make remarkable correlations between words to help others understand better.

Mundane tasks sometimes take a lot of energy if he cannot express himself with ease. When he started learning Dutch it was a lot easier for him to integrate into the community and have a feeling of belonging.

“Since my Dutch has improved, I can focus a lot better at work. I get to be myself and feel I can share more of that with everyone.”

– Jamal

What is the future we want for the people working with us?

The people at our factory brought us on a journey of making our ambition of providing support to as many as possible come true. Every Sheltersuit we create costs 6 hours of work.

The least we can do is help them create an environment where they can express themselves and get to access their full potential. Learning a new language can be very challenging. We believe in creating a process that gives our team the stability to trust that they will be proficient in speaking the Dutch language.

For everyone that joins our factory, we want to create a future where they can explore a realm of possibilities. Being able to communicate freely is a form of freedom everyone should get to experience.

“Many of the people in our team have wonderful stories of being brave, caring, believing and helping others. They should be able to tell these stories, to everyone.”

– Bas

The past 7 years would not have been possible without the support of everyone working in the factory. By donating, once or periodically, you support all the people that are part of the Sheltersuit Foundation. By giving them an opportunity to develop products for the people suffering from not having a shelter and creating a future for everyone to reach their full potential.

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