ACCESS volunteers share about life as internationals, advice for newcomers, and best kept secrets!

zoom call with access volunteers

ACCESS volunteers share about life as internationals, advice for newcomers, and best kept secrets!

On 5 December we celebrate International Volunteers Day! Our volunteers from ACCESS play an important role at the Centre and to learn more about what they do, we invited Crescence and Haris for a (zoom) chat. They were both very excited to share about their experiences as volunteers and internationals living in The Hague.

Crescence left Cannes and fell in love with the international nature of The Hague, and the easily accessible parks around the city. She is still in love with the region after 17 years! Haris came to the Netherlands a year ago after working in the refugee crisis in Greece. He is currently pursuing his master’s in migration at the Leiden University. Thank you Crescence and Haris it was lovely meeting you both! Read all about our ‘gezellig’ morning zoom call where we shared about everything from volunteering to best kept secrets!


How did you come to volunteer for ACCESS?

Crescence: I started to volunteer at ACCESS in 2004, but I stopped when I found a job. I lost my job after a long-term illness, and when I felt better, I wanted to give back to the community. But because I didn’t speak Dutch well, I didn’t feel I was giving at my full potential. So, I went back to ACCESS two years ago and it has been an amazing experience. I feel like a part of a big family, giving back to the community and building bridges in a joyful way.

Haris: I heard about ACCESS in a language café and it looked very professional. Since I didn’t have time for a full-time job next to my studies, I decided to volunteer at ACCESS as I wanted to help people who, like myself, is a migrant. It has been a great learning experience. ACCESS plays an important role for expats and internationals as they help non-Dutch speakers to navigate the system in the Netherlands.


How was your experience as a volunteer at The Hague International Centre?

Crescence: A beautiful experience. A lot of nice colleagues to welcome and guide you. But it is also challenging because you need to be prepared to answer all types of questions. Questions range from immigration to childcare and some personal questions too.

Haris: I started in September and it is a fruitful experience. You learn a lot in a short time, and I love to interact with people from different professions and also the staff at The Hague International Centre. I find it fulfilling to help someone. Even if I do not know the answer to a specific question, I can help by referring them to the right organisation.


How are you managing during this pandemic, has it been difficult for you as an international?

Crescence: I’ve learnt to adapt in every situation, and I am happy to be in the Netherlands where you can just take a walk in the parks to take a break from the lockdown.

Haris: Yes. It is nice to be able to take a walk outside when you want to, and videocalls are very helpful to maintain your mental health. I even take my videocalls outdoors!


With the experience that you have as an expat, what advice would you give to a newcomer or any expat in The Hague region?

Crescence: Mingle with the locals! Sign your children up for a regular activity to help them learn the language. Don’t be afraid to speak Dutch. Be open to learn a new culture, adapt and build something new here. The Hague International Centre does a great job, do not hesitate to ask questions as the staff are really helpful.

Haris: Start learning the Dutch language from day one. Even if you can only speak a few words in Dutch, it is nice to be able to communicate with locals in their language. Join an activity or start volunteering!


What is the best kept secret in The Hague region?

Crescence: Hidden parks in The Hague! They are all a little different and they offer an escape from the city.

Haris: I love Clingendael! You can get there easily by bike and you are in paradise. I like to just cycle around to discover a park that I never knew was there.


Visit ACCESS-nl to find out more about what they offer for volunteers and internationals.

Or learn about International Volunteer Day 2020 here.