Villa Vrede visitors all have their own unique story and on this page we would like to share some of these stories with you.

That’s Life

Aram from Armenia sits in the living room. I know him from the Dutch classes in the Ubuntuhuis. He comes over to join me. We speak Dutch. I don’t know his flight story and I find it very difficult to ask him. Recently I met Aram in front of the library, where he had been studying all afternoon. He told me he lives in the Netherlands for 5 years now, but the first few years he lacked the concentration to learn the language. I don’t have the heart to ask him possible painful questions. So, first we just have a chat and then he tells me about Toevlucht, where he now sleeps since 2 months. Toevlucht is a night shelter and is the result of a personal initiative. Toevlucht is supported by churches in the city and is made possible with the help of a lot of volunteers. At 8.30 pm they are allowed in, at 7.00 am they get a wake-up call and at 8.00 am they have to leave again. They can leave their belongings in Toevlucht, Aram has a bag with clothes there. A few days ago they told him he can only sleep in Toevlucht 3 … Continue reading »

It’s so nice here!

Salifu’s radiant smile makes you happy.  He is sitting on the couch at Villa Vrede, leafing through the magazines we’ve been given by a hairdresser. He still hardly speaks Dutch, because he’s from Guinea, a small country in West-Africa. In this case it’s lovely to just leaf through a Cosmopolitan or a Story. Salifu arrived here 13 months ago on an oil tanker. For three weeks he was hidden on the boat with a lot of fellow countrymen before he arrived in the Netherlands. He doesn’t tell much about the journey, but he is glad to be here now. This young man, 24 years old, has a surprisingly good mood when you consider the way he lives here. He doesn’t have a residence and regularly sleeps in Toevlucht, but he can only stay there a maximum of 21 days. In the daytime he seeks out warm spots and scrapes his meals together. Sometimes he goes to Catherijnehuis, but he doesn’t always feel safe there. He knows the police watch around there. Villa Vrede is a place where he clearly feels at home. When we opened the doors in February, he was here right away – a game of table football, … Continue reading »

Rest and food at Villa Vrede

‘Activities? That’s not why I come to Villa Vrede’, says Ahmed. He is a refugee and is homeless. ‘That’s not the first thing you look for when you are homeless’, he says. ‘I come here to talk, rest and eat.’ Ahmed is 27 years old and uitgeprocedeerd refugee from an African country. He rather doesn’t mention his real name nor country of origin, because he is scared. He is afraid to return to his country, but cannot prove that he’ll be in serious trouble if  he would go back. That’s why he didn’t receive a residence permit in the Netherlands and it’s the reason he is  living out on the streets now. He’s not allowed to work and he’s not entitled to any benefits, a house or a room He is homeless for over a year now. Fortunately he can sleep at the homeless shelter. And also there is a new shelter run by the church. He doesn’t get enough sleep at the shelter, he says. Everyone sleeps in one big room, they can only go to bed late and have to get up very early. Some people snore, several people have nightmares.  Most have a refugee background. Ahmed is … Continue reading »

Sports offers Nebyu relaxation

Nebyu (40) was a top football player in his country. Because he became politically active, he got more and more problems. He had to flee his country, travelled all over the world and now lives on the streets in the Netherlands. He likes to play sports with others at Villa Vrede. In 1991 he played top league for the Ethiopian national team. “People love football, I was very popular. I lived a good life and supported my family. My father was politically active. He was imprisoned in ’95, abused and died after his release. Six years later my brother was shot dead at a demonstration.” Nebyu himself got politically active some years after that. He gave up playing top league football because he was ‘too old’. He worked in construction and studied to be a tour operator/ guide in the evenings. He lived in the capital Addis Abeba. In 2005 the troubles started. Because of upcoming elections he was asked to help, being a popular football player, to inform the youth. He became active for the opposition. As a result he got beaten and almost arrested; later on he was imprisoned and tortured. He just escaped in the nick of … Continue reading »

I am merely an illegal person

It’s a Wednesday morning and Aya is at Villa Vrede with her 2 year old daughter Seneb. Always punctual, at 10 am Aya is present to ensure, together with another volunteer, that Villa Vrede is a welcoming home. Make coffee, have a chat, play a game; Aya feels quite at home here and really wants to contribute to those who are struggling and are in the same kind of situation as she is. I’m getting to know Aya a little bit already and ask her if she wants to tell me her personal story. ‘What can I say; I’m just an illegal person, like everyone else here’. But then she begins to tell her story… Aya is from West-Africa. Her father was politically active and was murdered. Aya was then captured and abused. She wasn’t safe anymore, being the daughter of an activist, she could never know whom to trust. A friend of her father managed to free her and brought her to Holland, where she ended up in a ‘safe-house’ in Etten-Leur. There she started the asylum procedure. Every 10-12 months she was forced to move again, to places like Ter Apel and Katwijk. Her procedure was declined in … Continue reading »

The French destroyed everything

Mohammed lives in the Netherlands for over 20 years. In Algeria they told stories about the beauty of Holland where everyone is welcome and where you can work for a while to return home a richer man. It was not safe in Algeria at that time and there were hardly any future possibilities for young men. So, leaving for a while to earn money was an appealing prospect. After a long journey Mohammed arrived in the Netherlands, where he soon found out that it wasn’t all that pleasant here. On the advice of some ‘friends’ he never applied for asylum, because the odds were small. Besides he was surely going to leave again after a while. It did not go as planned…. being in love with a Dutch woman he tried to stay here and had a daughter, but the relationship didn’t last. Now Mohammed feels lost and lives reluctantly between two countries. Algeria is his home country and he shares daily on facebook what happens in his country. He is proud and sad at the same time. ‘The French destroyed everything, just as they are doing now in CAR and Mali. The president and ministers are all corrupt and … Continue reading »