Salone News

Holland: Sierra Leoneans Find a Home Away from Home

17 October 2006 at 12:45 | 601 views

By Ayo Mason, Holland.

Every Sierra Leonean in Holland dreams of being able to adapt to Dutch culture and strives to achieve society’s goodies, and fortunately Dutch people are famous for helping the underdog. For those Sierra Leoneans who have been fortunate to propel themselves into the Dutch system, they do not relent in their pursuit to accomplish these goals.

When Mary fled rebel atrocities in her native Waterloo in Sierra Leone, she hardly knew Holland will be her destined place. Now, she is a health worker and has proudly embraced her new way of life.

At the Guys and Dolls saloon, many Sierra Leoneans and Dutch locals come together and enjoy spending time meeting old and new friends. Adjacent is a street market open every Saturday where foreigners and Dutch alike look at various stalls, in order to take advantage of special offers and sales.

Wherever there are Sierra Leoneans in Eindhoven there is a crescendo and chorus of the Krio dialect among them. The gathering somewhat resembles a normal business day in Freetown, Makeni, Koidu and other towns in Sierra Leone. Mostly, the discussions are increasingly about the private lives of individuals and problems at home. People also gripe about their friends but still show friendliness. However, if you really want to blend into the Dutch culture be sure to passionately learn the language.

Through her innate desire to grasp the language, Fatmata does not regret her decision to stay in Holland. She says her "new found home is a hub that strengthens my capability." Part of her work at the nursing home is to learn new skills, and draw on the collective strength of the wider society to provide efficient service for the elderly.

Jibo, another Sierra Leonean who has been living in the Netherlands for the past six years, is however unable to secure refugee status and is caught in the middle of strict asylum laws. He likens his situation to a bird that continues to hibernate in a severe winter season.

Excluded from Dutch socialization, Jibo is caught in the middle of a serious Post Traumatic Stress Depression. He is quietly withdrawn from the prying eyes of the Sierra Leonean public and now spends his time in a mental home. This scenario illustrates perfectly the situation of many Sierra Leoneans, who prefer to stay put in their designated areas in the Netherlands, but are increasingly troubled by the passive aggresiveness of the system.

Though he has been stretched beyond limits, despite his patience, Alfred (yet another Sierra Leonean) never waits to be helped. Through his contacts with some sympathetic Dutch people, he talks to Dutch students about the reasons for the civil war in Sierra Leone and why people are forced to flee their land in the midst of war. He told me that despite all the controversies and conjectures, he is still benefiting from the generosity of his Dutch friends and acquaintances.

Guys and Dolls, owned by Seray,another compatriot, is a local testimony that things can work in the favour of immigrants, as many of Alfred’s contacts have been found at this saloon.

* Ayo Mason (photo, top left) is an experienced Sierra Leonean broadcaster living and working in Holland.The photo on the right is an area near the Sierra Leonean Guys and Dolls saloon.

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