ACCESS is a local, volunteer managed foundation which for 35 years has been helping the international community find its way, and settle in the Netherlands.
ACCESS has been in partnership with Expat Centre Leiden since November 2016, providing internationals with experience and expertise in answering their settling-in related questions.
There were many hopes, during 2021 that the year would become a bit more stable, that the covid related challenges would ease away – and that some of the lessons learnt from the period would remain. Sadly, this was not the case – lessons learnt, yes, but challenges, well, they continue. Nonetheless, for ACCESS, the year certainly picked up – in numbers – compared to 2020, and the new ways of serving the community, through Zoom calls, were welcomed and appreciated by many. We look forward to implementing some of the lessons of last year, as we continue to serve internationals coming to and living in the Netherlands, oh, and those leaving too – as we have answers to those questions as well.
For those new to or unfamiliar with ACCESS – we are a local, not-for-profit volunteer managed foundation which for 35 years has been helping the international community find its way, and settle in the Netherlands. For the last 10 years or so we have partnered with a few municipal expat desks, assisting them in doing the same, and partnering with their efforts to effectively welcome internationals coming to live and work in their areas. We work with a team of approximately 130 volunteers – from 40 countries – who are largely the partners of people who have come here to work. Besides running our Helpdesks, and being part of the Information and Hospitality services in several cities, they also effectively manage the organisation as such, and support the work not only of the aforementioned, but also of our teams of on-call Counsellors; Trainers and Childbirth preparation and First Aid courses; and the production of our Magazine. While they help us serve the community, we in turn serve them – providing them with an opportunity to use and or learn new skills, network with fellow internationals and build experience for their CVs and LinkedIn profiles.
The year ended with around 10,0001 inquiries attended to. A 27% increase on 2020 and only 2,200 less than 2019. That these inquiries have been largely attended to by online teams throughout the year is a testament to how our teams work – and ensure we continue the services of our mission to help people to successfully settle in the Netherlands and to provide unique, comprehensive and essential services nationally, through the expertise and experience of its volunteer expatriate community.
Changes over time
Since our inception in 1986 of course much has changed among the internationals coming to live and work in the Netherlands. Not the least of these are those individuals hoping to continue their own professional careers. The countries from which ‘expats’ came of course have also changed – or rather expanded since then. The community coming is younger, more diverse and even more appreciative of what an international experience can give them, add to their careers. And, of course, for the partners or spouses of international employees there are greater numbers of them – also looking to extend, expand or continue their professional lives. In this regard, ACCESS has been paying greater attention to the ‘dual career’ challenges of internationals, and besides offering responses to inquiries about potential employment, has been supplementing their own learnings through our Lunch&Learn Series – offered to the partners/spouses of the employees of our Patron Programme supporters.
Of course, there have been changes over time – but many things remain constant. New people arrive, with the same questions of many years ago, and while there is greater information available in English – compared to 1986 – having these responded to by people who lived the same process offers a comforting empathetic answer to ‘how can we settle here effectively’.
In 2021 ACCESS started its Lunch&Learn Sessions for EMA – which due to covid took place online and will now continue to do so. It was decided, during the year, that while these were online they could also be added to as options for our other Patrons, not just EMA. A decision around September was made to leave these Sessions online given the appeal it provided for people who do not live in Amsterdam, or close to the EMA facility, to actually attend them. Keeping the sessions online actually ensures more people are able to take advantage of the different sessions – not just spouses/partners, but also staff members.
During 2021 ACCESS held 8 Lunch&Learn Sessions. There were over 500 registrations to attend these sessions, and while only 215 were able to attend them we are encouraged to see that (to date) the recordings of the sessions have received the traffic we had hoped for, and have been viewed close to 500 times. We are happy to see that people value this and are learning from the sessions. We see the appreciation in the responses we receive as well – which have been overwhelmingly positive not only about the content, but also about the presenters.
“I really enjoyed all the sessions organised so far for EMA. Very professional and very caring. I’m benefiting from it more than I was from any other relocation service.” Marta
Through ‘thick and thin’ in times of normalcy, but also times of change and transition, ACCESS has been here, answering questions people have about moving to and living in the Netherlands. And, our intention is to continue supporting as best we can internationals who are here, as well as those planning to come. Please, be sure to share with those you know, who may have questions, that our website and helpdesks are here to help them. Want to know more about our new Lunch&Learn Sessions? Do get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.