As Community Manager I frequently interview host families and their guests.
Text: Jet Krantz
After a trip through the beautiful Limburg landscape, I arrive on top of a hill in the village of Cadier en Keer. Heerko and Els give me a warm welcome. It turns out that they open their homes to all kinds of people. In addition to currently accommodating Gamal, they are also a place to stay for Vrienden op de Fiets. So they are used to people going up and down the stairs and they visibly enjoy the commotion that their various guests bring with them.
Unfortunately, their Takecarebnb guest is not present during my visit. He has an exam to become a traffic controller. Fortunately, the host family has a lot of stories and anecdotes about the two months Gamal has been staying with them.*
Their Takecarebnb adventure started last year, when Heerko and Els read in de Volkskrant that there was a need for host families. They mention they’ve always liked to share with others and they also like to meet new people from whom they can learn. So the choice was clear: register as a host family at Takecarebnb. Their first guest was a woman from Ukraine. Soon after her departure, the Yemeni Gamal stayed over for trial weekend. All three of them had a great time, and thus Gamal came to stay with them a few weeks later.
Gamal doesn’t like to sit still and it shows. During his stay at azc Hoogeveen, Gamal was busy: when he left, the mayor stopped by to thank Gamal for his volunteer work at a school and at the park service. And in the short period that he has been staying with Heerko and Els, he has found various part-time jobs. He currently has three. Perhaps, after passing his exam, he will also work as a traffic controller.
In Yemen, Gamal had a very different job. He was a government researcher before he had to flee to another country with his wife and children. However, there appeared to be little future prospects for the refugee family, so the couple decided that Gamal would go to the Netherlands to rebuild a life there so that his family could follow later. Upon arrival at Schiphol, he was detained at the airport for 1.5 weeks. This was a shocking experience to him. Fortunately, the people were friendly. He had asked where he could pray, after which he was taken to a public prayer room where people of all religious backgrounds could pray. He really liked that.
There is a moment. of quiet Visibly affected, Els says that she finds it very moving to see how positive and hopeful Gamal is. Heerko nods. They mention how one day Gamal came home with half a pie. It turned out to be the wedding day of his wife and him; This is the second time they celebrated without each other. Els set the table and they sent a photo to Gamal’s wife.
It’s quiet again. Then Els chuckles and another story follows. Recently, Gamal announced that he was going to buy cod at the fish stall for dinner. He came home with a bag full of crabs. In Arabic, the pronunciation of crab resembles the Dutch cod. All three of them still laugh about it. He then called a friend to ask how he should prepare crab. He often does this when he cooks: call his wife or friends if he doesn’t know how to prepare something.
A lot has happened in the last two months, so it is difficult to choose what to include in this article. Another anecdote then. Sometimes travelers come by unannounced in the evening via Vrienden op de Fiets to ask if the host family has a room left. Before the host family was registered with Takecarebnb, Gamal’s room was available for these travelers. Gamal feels bad about this and has said that he can stay somewhere else so that the travelers can use his room. This is ofcourse out of the question for Heerko and Els.
It’s clear that Heerko and Els have a special bond with their guest. I leave with a pleasant feeling, but also a little unsatisfied… I would have liked to have met Gamal, especially after the beautiful stories and anecdotes of his host family.
* At the beginning of the conversation I agreed with Heerko and Els that I would send this article to them prior to publication for review. This way, Gamal could also read it and indicate his approval.