Personal encounters make a real difference

Abdul from Yemen and Alex from The Netherlands were brought together in a mentoring program at VodafoneZiggo recently. The two men became friends – a story that once again confirms the importance of personal encounters and open conversations.

Abdul (short for Abdulrahman) came to The Netherlands in 2020, fleeing from his home country Yemen. With an inquisitive mind, he combined his job as a manager in IT with journalism, covering science, technology and health topics. As soon as he was allowed to work in The Netherlands, he actively looked for opportunities – one of which was a programming course at VodafoneZiggo , which he found through Refugee Talent Hub.

Alex has worked for VodafoneZiggo for more than 20 years, in different roles – from engineer to team manager. He enjoys extracurricular activities, likes to meet new people and is always curious to learn about new perspectives and other cultures.

“I always look for activities that broaden my horizon”, Alex explains. “And Diversity and Inclusion are so important to me; I really value that we are all free to be who we are. In addition: imagine what it’s like for refugees… having to restart your life! If that happened to me, I would also like people to help me. So it was without question that I joined this mentoring program.”


Both Abdul and Alex live in the north and after becoming mentor and mentee, they travelled to the office together by car a couple of times. Those were precious moments – with plenty of time, they had the opportunity to really get to know each other and be curious about the other person, his background, his culture… They quickly found common ground and became friends.

All sorts of topics were covered – from applying for a job to the housing market, and from pension schemes to the Dutch school system. “I learned so much from Alex”, says Abdul. “He really helped me with so many things. He supported me with networking and connected me to people. And it was so nice to get to know each other’s family too.”


Restarting your life can be really tough: “’Refugee’ is just a label – it’s not who I am. I am a person who would like to pay taxes, I want a real job and contribute to society. And I know many others who feel the same way. I also feel a responsibility to show people that ‘we’ are not here for fun. So sometimes, it can be hard to keep your confidence up and believe in your goal.”

The programming course and the mentoring program gave Abdul the confidence [back] that he can do it: that he can make it work in his new country, that he can find a job, that he still loves the field of IT… “The confidence that I can get somewhere!”

Just do it!

Abdul recommends finding ways to develop your skills and work on your social integration – even if you are not allowed to work yet. It’ll help with the language too. And join mentoring programs if you can: “They are so useful and provide you with a door to society, really. You learn how to build relationships, about the unwritten rules, how deal with colleagues. Especially if you are spending most of your daily life with other refugees, these programs really give you access to the Dutch society. They widen your view and help you find your way.”

When asked if he has any tips for people who are considering becoming a mentor, Alex says: “Don’t doubt, just do it! Life is not just about work; we all have a responsibility towards society too. And you will have fun and learn a lot along the way as well. It’s really rewarding to help other people find their way and help them know more about The Netherlands.”

Together with VodafoneZiggo, Accenture and New Dutch Connections, the Refugee Talent Hub organized a Codemasters programming course, similar programs you can find on our website: