Spotlight Stories of Hope, Resilience, and Meaningful Collaborations.Here you will find uplifting stories of the communities, individuals, and partnerships that are moving forward and doing things to stay positive, and giving back to others.
Optimizing the Collaboration & Providing the Right Information
So, with Holland Expat Center & Brainport Development’s collaboration to organize the regional information and make it accessible and useful to all the Internationals. It is a welcoming sight to see them create Coronavirus Portal that gives access to the relevant and verified information and easy to navigate resources surrounding coronavirus.
As the coronavirus pushed new norms into our lives, the new reality caused a big hassle for everyone, but from different angles for international people. A significant number of people, communities, and organizations planned several initiatives like the Corona Portal for Brabant to help these people. Mira Dreessen, Project Manager at Brainport Development and one of the creators of the Corona Portal for Brabant, presented the situation with, “We realized that there was not one general place where internationals can find information about the corona impact on our lives, especially in the region.” Besides all hardships caused by the pandemic, as internationals, we also faced other kinds of drawbacks, but our voice was heard. “Several regional organizations got together and initiated the Corona Portal with the idea to figure out one place to help out share official information and share other initiatives that can help people during these times,” explained Mira.
Olivia van den Broek -Neri, the Project Coordinator Communications & Events at Holland Expat Center South and one of the three ladies who contributed to the portal and this interview commented, “The Corona Portal has given us the opportunity to help people during a difficult time.” During the first days of the pandemic, it was noticeable that people who are coming from different countries were carrying more stress in their pockets.
Heather Donaldson, Project Manager at Brainport Development and contributor of the portal, commented that “I think a lot of people stressed out because of the regulations in the Netherlands being different than they were in their hometowns.” Therefore, the need for English sources was essential to explain in which ways the regulations are different and what is the reason behind those measurements and to avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments.
Corona Portal for Brabant is a swift action to support the internationals in the region, to enhance access to the right information in an international Language, and to leverage on regional resources to combat the pandemic.
In the Corona Portal, all these issues are covered with links to translated official information. It is a great platform to give or find support with excellent coverage of related web links of initiatives and organizations. “I have also noticed with my international friends that they are mostly stressing about their family back home and not so much about themselves. It is difficult to address for us; however, that’s why we help them keep social or stay in touch with their family and when the stress is too much, sending help like finding someone to talk to and to deal with yourself that way,” shared Heather. As aiming to bring together the international community with the necessary sources, the Corona Portal also has different sections dedicated to different parts of the international community. These include students, business owners, and children.
With the new day’s bringing, there were some changes regarding our daily lives and current issues around us, even though we were still in our homes. Therefore, the Corona Portal for Brabant has been evolving and changing with it as well. “In the beginning, the portal focused on information sources, such as where to get official updates from the Dutch government, and how to get or give assistance. Now the issues are more related to how to keep updated on all of the changes occurring,” addressed Olivia. Now and once again, it was planned to touch different aspects of our lives and to help to the normalizing period with the portal. “Our way of life is changing once again. We are starting to go out more and people are making travel plans. The Corona Portal will advise about how to travel safely and places to visit in Brabant!” said Olivia and also uttered that they consistently keep in touch with the non-Dutch speaking community to address how they can help them and how the portal can evolve for the better. From the first days of the pandemic, the portal has been “for internationals from internationals” as Mira pointed out.
Although all online activities and the things that we are doing tirelessly to keep ourselves busy and positive, sometimes it does not go with a swing. Mira referred to it by saying, “Sometimes, it is difficult to stay positive, and it is good to know that this is okay.” Sometimes you need something more. Olivia shared, “There has never been a better time to get to know your neighbors because everyone has been home! Normally people are in a rush, but now it is different.”Mira added, “Make sure that you reach out to your neighbors, approach each other, and create a moment of connection.” I should say, good observation and useful tips from the ladies.
“This initiative is an example of how well we work together in Brabant! It is our strength!” summarizes Olivia, along with Mira and Heather.
When it comes to how these ladies fuel themselves to keep going and help people utilizing this multi-layered platform, we had several great answers. Mira started, “For me, the main reason was also being able to take part and contribute to the answers of questions that I heard from others, to help out to them in the way of creating this website and making creating something tangible.” Olivia continued with, “Everything that I do for my work is to help people to settle into the region. The most important way to do that is to give them information because people don’t feel comfortable when they don’t know what’s going on around them! It has been great to work with a team to provide this information to the non-Dutch speaking community!” Heather added, “Because we are working together with HECS, it also feels like a duty because we have a current position with the ability to reach many people in the region and inform them on matters when information is hard to find”
We are truly thankful to these brilliant ladies who keep the platform going, and all of the organizations behind the platform that support the international community.
The Corona Portal is created by Holland Expat Center South, Brainport Eindhoven, Expat Spouses Initiative, High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Technical University of Eindhoven, and Fontys to provide a platform which includes lots of sources addressing several different corona related issues. All of the good work that these organizations were doing during the normal times were adapted to a new normal.
Making A Crucial Impact
Reporting Local News & Top Stories
Eindhoven news is making sure to keep the light shining on both the facts and the stories that help to bring hope during this uncertain time. As each day brings more coverage on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the people, it might be hard to keep positive while maintaining social distancing from your network. But the outbreak has also revealed some incredible moments as we adapted to the new way of life.
“We have to make the best use of our time. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. So, take each day as it unfolds, smile when you open up your eyes, and be grateful because you have one more beautiful day in your bag.” an essential reminder shared by Chaitali. She is one of the volunteers from Eindhoven News, which started more than 10 years ago with the initiative of international people to keep the English speaking community informed about local happenings daily. “We are a community which you are part of, and we wanted to voice out,” added Irene as the founder of Eindhoven News.
Eindhoven News has around 25 active international volunteers, and it reaches about 15,000 expats per week via the website, social media channels, and activities. We had the privilege to sit down with four ladies from the Eindhoven News team who have been a strong pillar in the progressive growth of the initiative. We are delighted to bring the bites from our conversation with Irene Martens (Founder), Melinda Walraven (News Coordinator), Chaitali Sengupta (Writer & Translator), and Beena E Arunraj (Editor-in-Chief), who have been kind enough to share their stories during corona days with us. Because of the pandemic, change was inevitable. On a personal level, Beena began by describing isolation days at home as “harmonized chaos”. From the Eindhoven News angle, “The normal work geared up. Because it was vital to share every bit of important information, new developments, and regulations that were building up rapidly during these unique times with our readers, now, more than ever, was the need to swiftly adapt personally and professionally. Our volunteers stepped up to fulfill this need without missing a beat.” shared Irene. Obviously, making Dutch information available for the international community is their way to bounce back from adversity.
“As the motto of Eindhoven News, we want to bring the internationals together not only in moments of joy but also in moments of distress, and when we need each other as a community,” Chaitali expressed her feelings and presented us the touchstone of the organization.
Due to the urgent nature of corona related situations, they arranged their workload accordingly and started to translate relevant news and follow press conferences of The National Broadcasting Service. “By really looking at the right, objective and accurate sources and translating from there we really felt this is what we can do for the community. We also wisely chose our tone because we did not want to panic them with any sensational articles. We just wanted to let them know this is why and this is how,” explained Irene. They did not only translate the updates and publish the news but also create helpful background articles related to the corona virus which exposes the situation from different angles such as; virtual schooling, parenting, mental health, help for entrepreneurs, healthy foods and nutritions during corona days. Because topics they share are mostly about pandemics, they are exposed to this negative situation and related news a lot. “You feel negative when you always need to focus on coronavirus. People may check the news once a day but we have to check every day. So, we end up reading lots of corona related material,” Beena said but they are not reluctant to make any sacrifices; not only absorbing the negativities to let us have the information that we need but also spending hours to create and translate articles as volunteers. We should give them their due by sharing, commenting and letting them know that they are doing a great job.
The challenge many of us are facing today turns out as a positive change for good, which creates collective solidarity. “It is not me anymore. It is us now. It is affecting us, everybody. It’s time to help, reach out, give and share,” commented Irene. Feeling responsible for other people, and doing something about it is an effective way to bolster our own emotional health. “It is not only giving, but it is also getting,” in so many ways, as Beena said.
Melinda addressed the Corona Help Eindhoven page, which was there for us from day one and expressed, “People quickly jump in to try and help people every day by doing groceries, helping elders and so on. I was very impressed with how quickly the community has jumped in to try and help each other.” Like all of us, we saw that we are in this together with so many big-hearted people around us, and “This kind of solidarity makes us strong as a society,” said Chaitali.
Facing the crisis in a trustworthy environment and ensuring there are enough measures are essential for our present and also our future. The Netherlands Government seems to get credit for their efforts from the community of Eindhoven News as well. Irene commented on the topic with “When it comes to a crisis, the things are organized, and there is communication between crucial organizations. There is a plan. Also, the information you get is not tempered.”
Melinda continued in the same direction “They’re very transparent about what the health department’s doing, what the measures are, and they don’t give people false hope and say, ‘Maybe the shops will open.’ They say, ‘Well, we’ll look.’”
When it comes to the economic point of view, Beena mentioned the coherence of the intelligent lockdown and shared, “The baseline economy was not shut, it was still let to operate. The only certain sectors had to be closed, unfortunately, but the rest of the economy could go on. Now, maybe people don’t like it, but after a few months, when they look back, there is a good balance that they will appreciate.” With all rise and falls, we all appreciate our current condition in a way and how the government handled the situation in the Netherlands.
“The world really needed to change. We know it has to come from the people on the street. You can see it works, and it happens, and I really hope that this is how it will stay, and people continue to do so,” says Irene.
We all hope that we are learning for good from this calamity, and we will use these learned abilities in the future to make the best of these severe times. Thank you all volunteers of Eindhoven News, you are doing a great job, and we have a lot to take from you.
Story of Collective Good
Every day brings a new beginning. It is time to wriggle from our instinctive negativity and learn from each other not only to overcome but also to make these days change for the better. The story of Yolima van den Berkmortel will certainly empower all of us, considering she is one of the strongest fighters who has experienced severely hard times in various ways caused by the pandemic. She virtually opened her doors to us and kindly started to share her story.
Yolima van den Berkmortel is one of the founders of International Creative Women (ICW), which connects, supports, and promotes small creative entrepreneurs in and around Eindhoven since 2018. The community is busy, “focusing on international women after arriving who are trying to adapt and chose to open their business.” Yolima journeyed the process with a good deal of rough fractions. While she was experiencing vanishing of all the effort revealed for the events for the community, phase one was more time interrupted with the loss of her mother, and self isolating herself with with the symptoms similar to COVID-19.
Yolima, vitalized our feelings inside out with her courage and shared the secret of keeping things positive by stating that “Do not worry so much for things that we cannot control. We cannot control the measurements, what other people do, the virus. Maybe we can enjoy more of what we have, and we can control.” She narrates an interesting journey of human emotions from what started as an epidemic to the present: “At the beginning, it was the meme phase when we all laughed and shared funny memes, and then it was denial, worry, and stress, then acceptance and adaptation. It is normal to go through all these feelings. After more than four weeks, it was time to focus on what we have and what we can do in this situation.”
“As Entrepreneurs, we have the ability to Change, Adapt, and Move quickly. And that is what we did.”
“It affected us deeply,” she expressed, “This is not easy for anybody. It is unexpected with the consequences that we couldn’t imagine. We spent the last few months working on a new project – the soft skills training for entrepreneurs and more, which was canceled. Recently, we were supposed to have a big event. But everything had to be called off, and it affected us considerably.”After the adaptation, let’s say, the direction of their works changed naturally.
As ICW, they amazingly created engaging online workshop programs to help people who are stuck in their homes and fight with lots of corona-induced problems. Yolima, along with the ICW community, manifests strength through adversity, “started receiving some messages. People were worried, concerned, and stressed. So, we heard and listened to these women, and that’s why we could create something that could help them directly.”
Even the community aims to help and respond to the need of local women; initially, the project started to go beyond that aim. “Now we have sessions being participated by people from other countries. We have people from France, Italy, Belgium, Latin America, that is amazing, we have men, women, even children doing these workshops. We started to think locally to help local women, but we ended up helping people from so many places with so many different backgrounds.”
“When we work together, we are stronger and we can come up with innovative solutions that can help people,”
Alike the direction of the community and work, now the path of these women also changed. Even as individuals, they became a part of something bigger by discovering the cure by helping others. “They also realize that this can be a savior for them in this crisis time. So now, they are also organizing their programs on their own websites and platforms to keep helping people by offering their services and staying in contact. That’s impressive that there were tools and gaps, and they used it. We cannot be prouder.”
The situation will have some substantial impact on several things in the future for sure. As business matters, it already affected deeply the ways of working, communicating, and selling. “Some of the entrepreneur women sell only in events and markets. So, the current situation showed us that we all need to go digital very quickly because otherwise, we cannot survive,” Yolima predicted. In the overall scenario, ‘what will the disease affect’ is a question with a great number of answers. Yolima commented.
From another angle, this is an entirely economic survival situation for all of us, which we want to see the end. “I also have a business that has slowed down completely. So, that is a really serious problem not only for me but for all entrepreneurs in the community. They are really concerned about their financial situation,” Yolima shared the same opinion. Besides all personal efforts against the Coronavirus, it is always essential to know we are surrounded by systematic support as much as possible. Therefore, the initiatives of governments take a crucial part of this recovery process.
The insights of her regarding the attitude of the government was: “I think that the quick response of the government with the economic measurements and economic package to support people was speedy. It was a moment of confusion; nobody knew whether we were going to be helped as entrepreneurs. But then they came with a big package of measurements. That was very positive.”
Among all these changes and challenges, there is one truth about how we are thankful to people like Yolima, who bite the bullet and guide us for better. “The credit goes to all these women that quickly got together and stepped up to help others when they are concerned about their life and business. All of them together create an amazing thing that we couldn’t do it alone. That is the beauty of this, when we work together, we are stronger, and we can come up with innovative solutions that can help people,” she added.
Thank you, Yolima, and all these talented women who are telling us, “We Are Not Alone!” every day with their limitless endeavor.
We Are In This Together
The adventure of Milagros Maldonado in the Netherlands started 30 years ago when she moved here from Venezuela with her two children. During her time here, she founded El Centro Latinoamericano de Orientación which organises activities and gives information to help with the integration of Latin-American inhabitants of the Netherlands. She also helped the foundation of All Women of Eindhoven community aiming to create more power and pleasure for women by acknowledging and caring each other.
The daily routine of us all changed due to the pandemic. While we are restricted in many areas, we try to develop and liberate ourselves in many new ways, which brings us more creativity. When asked about what she missed most in her life after the epidemic, Milagros answered us as follows: “Being on my own is not a problem. But I miss interacting and people’s energy in my life. I miss activities and life outside.” However, she discovered several ways to keep herself motivated and create a smile on her face. “I do makeup, love to dress. I have my lipstick always next to me. Sometimes I have a glass of wine and cook delicious foods for myself. We share recipes with friends. We compete with our recipes with friends. My gymnastic chair looks at me and invites me all the time. I do family group calls, and we enjoy together,” she said. Making a morning routine, giving positive messages rather than giving negative ones, especially in social media, thinking of your spirit and nourishing your soul are the ways she kindly shared with us to feel free as a bird in the boundary of our homes. Also, most importantly, she added, “You have to think who I can help today. Two or three people. Make a phone call. Think something that you can give to somebody.” One of the best suggestions we have heard to date.
“You have to think who can I help today. Two or three people. Make a phone call. Think something that you can give to somebody.”
“I think the government is doing the best that they can do. They treat us as adult people. You are free to go, and your responsibility is in your hands. It is the typical Dutch way. Your health, family, and country are your responsibilities.” Milagros and we are of a single mind about feeling lucky to be treated that way.
“I bring lots of photos of families and friends when I come here. They are companies of mine. It is good to have photos of people from your past to show your bond to the past. It reflects that you are not on your own, and you have a history.” Never a truer word was spoken.
Milagros has been helping others for more than 20 years. She and her community shoulder to shoulder eluded the rough times for a long time. When we asked how the crisis affect the community works, she explained as “We did not stop to work. Projects are continuing. We are doing phone calls with those who have problems. People have the same questions and problems as in normal life. It can be related to education, children, passport, health. We did not stop to help these questions of the people. Corona is something extra, but life is going on.” Furthermore, she gave us a hint to recover from the situation by helping others with might and foremost: “As individuals, you can look next to you, and you will always find someone who needs help. They do not only need money or goods, but they may need company, phone calls, or something to provide them comfort.” Milagros kindly mentioned the importance of providing accurate information with reputable sources and making lots of different activities available online as the first steps that we can do to help to set the situation right.
“We are part of nature and now nature is changing. The animals are free, birds are happier, space is clean. There are lots of things shifting in nature but we are also nature. Together we are one unity we are going to be clear and clean from inside and outside. Before we have the power to be free, now they have the power to be free. In the end, we will come an equilibrium.”
Our fears, blues, and happiness are the same all around the world these days. As Milagros indicated, we united under the same roof for the first time: “We have lots of problems in the World; wars poverty…But this is new. Everyone has the same subject at the same time.” This makes us more powerful against the difficulties that we are facing and makes us realize how strong we are together. As the last message, she added, “We are in a moment of not know to look back or further. We need to keep it positive. I am sure if people stay at home and do what they need to do, we are going to cross this moment to go back to normal or go to something else.” Thank you Milagros, for the courage that you gave us to find a way to cure ourselves of the scars of this crisis by helping others.
#SpotlightStories are gathered and written by Dilan Sarac, our International Talent. Just a short time ago, she moved to Eindhoven from London. She completed her master’s degree in International Marketing and launched a boutique advertising agency branch during her time in London. Currently, she is working as a Marketing Consultant specializing in omnichannel brand and campaign management. We are delighted to work with her during this campaign, which aims to bring visibility to the positive efforts of individuals and communities during these severe times and to say, “We Are Not Alone!”
We Are Not Alone #SpotlightStories, are presented in collaboration with Expat Spouses Initiative – Eindhoven, LIVING IN , Holland Expat Center & Brainport Eindhoven. Through this campaign, we bring stories of solidarity, kindness, and resilience together in an alliance to the recently launched Corona-Portal by Holland Expat Center South. Stay safe, stay well, and take care!
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