Casa Migrante, housed in an old church leased from the Diocese, is located in the Van Ostadestraat. We are a foundation that through solidarity is helping Spanish migrants with integration and finding jobs. At the same time, we foster bonds with the Dutch and Amsterdam community and the neighbourhood where Casa Migrante is located.
Our open house is a place where various disciplines of support come together and where we are able to help migrants with all sorts of problems and issues. We often help with information about administrative and legal procedures and regulation, but we also organise workshops and Dutch and English language lessons, we visit lonely elderly people, we maintain contact with sex workers and provide homeless people with the temporary use of a locker and a post box. Additionally, we frequently organise cultural activities focusing on Spanish or Latin American artists. Together we form an actively engaged community.
And then suddenly corona erupts, and in-person contact is no longer possible. We made the quick decision that Casa Migrante could no longer stay open with a view to the safety of our visitors and volunteers. A large part of our volunteers belong to a vulnerable category because of their age or health condition. We also need to start adhering to the rules of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
Yet our support must carry on. Soon our organisation will mark its 60th anniversary, and we are not letting the pandemic stop us. Our visitors and customers desperately need us, as it soon becomes clear that a large part of the Spanish-speaking migrants have been hit due to the closure of hotels, restaurants and shops and therefore no longer have an income. Domestic violence also appears to be a big problem.
It’s a major challenge! How are we going to solve this? By doing everything possible! Together we decide what services are necessary and possible. What can we do online or by telephone? Which volunteers are available? And soon we are up and running again!
The women’s emancipation project Minerva and a number of the language lessons have moved online. Requests for help are now sent by post. We are calling people to check how they are doing. We are providing children with laptops for remote learning. Since mid-March we have dealt with and helped around 250 requests and people. We are grateful to have the support of many other aid organisations, such as the Wereldhuis, the Red Cross, the Kansfonds and the City of Amsterdam.
Ten weeks after lockdown was imposed we were already open again with reduced hours. Thanks to the financial support of Netwerk DAK we have been able to restructure Casa Migrante to ensure the safety and health of our volunteers and visitors.
We are proud of our volunteers’ commitment in making sure that that what we stand for can carry on. However, we do worry. Since many of the activities and lessons have been cancelled, we are missing an important source of income. At the same time, we have had expenses in other areas. Our challenge is not just making sure that our volunteers and visitors remain healthy, but also how we as an organisation can remain (financially) healthy during the coming months.
by Carlita Koningstein, Casa Migrante