Dear Whocares readers
Thank you for taking the time to read this and apologies for this late message, but I can’t sleep without having at least tried to set the record straight. Not for me, not for my team but for all the refugees who will fear the elections in March.
My team and I organized an independent event in a small city called Balk in Friesland last Thursday the 19th of january. So the locals of Balk could get to know the refugees in the asielzoekerscentrum. We made the planning, build trust with COA, got sponsors on board, spread flyers on during rain and snowstorms, prepared food with refugees; we even translated ourselves when there was a language barrier, paid the bills that we couldn’t get a sponsor for, and finally hosted the evening.
All in all, weeks of stress and work paid off within those 3 amazing hours of the event. The whole room was crowded, almost 100 people took their evening off. We saw people coming together in a unique and just basic-human way. Through laughter, through shared concern about families that were left behind and empathy that was collectively felt. Kids were playing foosball with each other, adults were exchanging photos from their homecountry & vacation, and talking about dishes they would love to eat here, or the other way around, try out something new. Plans were made, numbers were exchanged: A full success for us; both goals reached…
Or so we thought.
Hooman Nassimi (Beeld: ikbijtniet.nl)
At the very beginning of our event, there was a small incident in which two men exchanged a heavy handed argument. A punch was thrown and obviously it drew a lot of attention but it was over as soon it had started. The police came and soon took off again because there was literally nothing else to do.
Yet, omroep fryslan, the regional media outlet in Friesland, was also present. And the reporter just made a major sensational headline out of this. Ok, we thought, let’s keep a cool head and just continue our event and for the rest of the evening it was also truly amazing. But later, NOS had picked it up! And even though the omroep fryslan article had been amended later that evening, with lots of video and audio footage, showing the great sides of the evening, all that NOS had “reported” was the negativity and blew this way out of proportion as well. The fact that the men were refugees just instigated a huge social media storm. Even Geert Wilders twittered on the NOS article saying:
Maakten al die hoogopgeleide asielzoekers, artsen, fysici en astronauten echt ruzie? Wat onbeschaafd en onverwacht!
Our team saw this article and followed these horrible tweets through the night, after the event, being fully exhausted and just thinking that we may have made a difference. So you can imagine our frustration. Even though the follow up article of the Leeuwarder Courant got some good comments on Facebook, all the nation read is a horrible headline one evening and thats all. Who reads the Leeuwarden Courant in Den Haag or Amsterdam or any other city anyway?
So thats why I am writing you. Because I’ve been following you guys on Facebook for quite a while and whenever there was a time when I thought that there is no one else that cares about the inequality there is in the world, you reminded me with stories of people helping and loving each other.
Thats the message I wanted to spread with our event as well. Thats the message the 100 firstly skeptical but then happy participants of the event from tiny, controversial Balk took home. It’s certainly not the message the rest of the nation got. I hope you can pick up this story, even though it might be a couple days old.
With kind regards,
Main Organizer Balk Connect