The Share & Care initiative of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Huister Heide, the Netherlands, offers Dutch language classes and other social activities to Afghan refugees. About 400 refugees were accommodated in the nearby town of Zeist. Volunteer team coordinator Lydia van Rhenen shared how ADRA Share & Care became involved in this initiative.
ADRA has been active worldwide for thirty years as the development organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but ADRA Share & Care began in 2020 with neighborhood activities to help bring social and economic justice to Netherlands. Since the change of government in Afghanistan, refugees leaving the country have spread around the world. The Netherlands also welcomed Afghan refugees, including those who came to Huister ter Heide.
“In August , we got a request through the neighborhood app,” van Rhenen said. “The emergency shelter is 800 meters away [half a mile] far from us. We were given a tour and talked to the refugees. We have heard harrowing stories. For example, about a man who was on the run with his child and had to cross a bridge. This bridge was under fire, and there was shooting over there. This man decided to cross the bridge with his child to reach the airport. It affects you. Some people have lost weight because of their traumatic experiences in Afghanistan.
Learn the language
“Language lessons are essential for integrating,” van Rhenen said. “Fortunately, two former teachers from the Oud Zandbergen primary school have agreed to give lessons to us. Eventually we started classes with 17 adults three times a week. These people were fluent in the English language and were highly educated. They now share their knowledge of the Dutch language with others in the emergency shelter.
“Some have worked as interpreters or for foreign development organizations and have fled, but still have family in Afghanistan. This family is not safe there. It causes stress. We are therefore careful with privacy-sensitive information. We never ask for experiences either, but wait for them to tell us.
“We also offer creative activities,” continued van Rhenen. “It mainly attracts girls and older women. Fortunately, after a call, we received three sewing machines. Its very important. One woman looked quite sad, but she became very excited when we showed her the sewing machines. She turned out to have been a seamstress in Afghanistan. She can now make a dress in an afternoon.
“A lot of people also take cycling lessons. They can practice in the field.… ADRA Share & Care often works with other organizations. During the autumn holidays, we did activities for the children. You experience God’s blessing in this work.
“Residents like to help. They send us clothes that we deliver to the emergency shelter. The Red Cross is looking into this further. They have a lot of experience in this area and know what is needed and how to distribute it correctly.
“At ADRA Share & Care, we want to be there for our neighbor, for strangers, orphans and widows. We certainly experience the blessings of God in this. It’s a great job.