Connecting Hands to train former refugees as role models

| Rense Kuipers

Training former refugees to become inspiring and empowering role models for new refugees. That is the goal of a new project by the UT based Connecting Hands foundation, which starts in May. Today, they sign a contract with their partners, the Enschede municipality and FC Twente Scoren in de Wijk. The UT acts as the main sponsor.

The signing of the memorandum of understanding this afternoon.

‘The goal of this initiative is to help newcomers to become socially and economically active early on,’ explains project leader and Technical Medicine student Zeynep Uslu. ‘We think this can be done through a personal approach. We want to train and coach successful and experienced former refugees to become community ambassadors, so they can inspire and empower others.’

‘Triple-win situation’

In May, the first group of eight role models in the making will start with a half-year course, offered by the company Belink Academy, as part of the DEAR project. The participants will each guide newcomers to develop their soft skills, follow their passions and contribute positively to society.

This process of training the trainers should lead to a trickle-down effect, explains Uslu. ‘If they inspire and empower others, they will in return become trainers for other newcomers who will also share their knowledge and experiences within their communities. We focus on people developing soft skills and we want to create a self-help mechanism, which will become a self-sustaining system. In the end it’s a triple-win situation for the newcomers, the communities and the region.’

Budget from UT

Connecting Hands started in 2015 as a Student Union committee at the peak of the Syrian refugee crisis, and is now a foundation run by UT students and alumni. This afternoon, they will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Enschede municipality and the FC Twente Scoren in de Wijk (Scoring in the Community) foundation.

The UT acts as the main sponsor for the non-profit project, offering both organisational and financial support, by funding €25.000 from the Shaping2030 inclusion budget. ‘Thanks to this support, the remaining pieces of the puzzle fell into place,’ says Uslu. ‘The vision of UT is also about giving back to the community. That’s what we’re trying to do with this project.’


The DEAR project team of Connecting Hands will start looking for the first eight participants. ‘The municipality and FC Twente Scoren in de Wijk can help us to connect with them on a neighbourhood level,’ says Uslu. The pilot will run until July 2022: the first batch of participants will finish in November this year and will start training others from December until July next year.

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