,,Still today, refugees have to face massive xenophobia in the cities/villages they live in, and even before that, go through an enormous ordeal in the asylum procedure. Endless waiting and inefficiency often take away the last bit of hope and ambition with which many refugees seek to start a new life in the Netherlands,” says Hooman Nassimi.
By: Lena Lötzer – photo Robert Vartanov
Hooman Nassimi, born in Iran and grown up in Germany, is promoting social inclusion of refugees through events in which locals and newly arrived locals get to meet each other. The 4th year student from Stenden University of Applied Science got his idea for the concept in 2016, as a result of anger and frustration about the refugee crisis and how the government and NGO’s seemingly could not handle the number of refugees seeking shelter in the Netherlands. Nassimi thus started spending all his energy and ambition researching and organizing meetings with organisations working with refugees in order to co-operate with them. With the help of his fellow student, Sophia Schmitt, he then established Community Connect.
Community Connect promotes social inclusion of refugees through building strong communities with locals. This is done through informal, relaxed and fun events in which locals and refugees get to know each other. It is all about engaging with each other and transforming fear of the unknown into long-term interactions. Community Connect is not only a meet and greet concept, but a platform in which opportunities such as job offers, internships, and leisure activities are pro-actively offered by the community.
For Nassimi, Community Connect is of great importance as it aims to improve people’s lives. It presents an effective way to overcome xenophobia and creates social inclusion in one evening for a large number of people. However, the concept did not simply work out over night. It took a lot of researching, developing, and testing. After four months of hard work, Nassimi and his team executed their first event in Balk on January 19th 2017. As a response to the great success of their first event, more events in Sneek and Leeuwarden followed. For some of the regular guests in Leeuwarden, the events are what they look forward to all month.
Nevertheless, Nassimi also highlights that Community Connect needs multiple runs to become more and more embedded in the city it operates in. ,,The more people partake, the more social inclusion we see; the bigger the platform, the network and the openness of locals becomes”. But where does Hooman Nassimi see the concept in a couple of months? Well, his aim is clear: ,,I definitely want to expand our activities to be present and active in several cities in Friesland, at some point next year hopefully in the entire North-Netherlands region. Then we’ll work our way up”.
Have you become curious about what Community Connect looks like? Visit one of the
next events that Nassimi organizes: Meet Up Café Leeuwarden on June 7th at 20:00 at
Neushoorn Café and ‘Sudwest Connect’ in Sneek on June 11th at 14:00 at the Library.