Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

There’s so much more to me than being a refugee

Foto: Jantine Albers

Saron was 14 when she left her native country. Her parents didn’t feel safe in Eritrea and wanted a better future for their children. But Saron doesn’t want to talk about leaving Eritrea. “That’s in the past and I can’t change or solve it. It’s like when someone dies; there’s no way back.” Having arrived in Millingen aan de Rijn, she gained a lower secondary school diploma before going on to do a higher secondary school diploma. She also attended IMC Weekend School in Nijmegen, where young teenagers from poor social-economic backgrounds are encouraged to think about what sort of work they want to do.

There’s so much more to Saron than being a refugee – something she thinks people tend to forget. “People are curious about what it’s like to be a refugee, but they’re not interested in my identity. I wish people could see beyond this. I’m Saron, I sing, dance, study and help people. I’m an autonomous, independent woman, not a sad case.” And Saron is keen to prove this. She’s always worked in odd jobs and when she was eighteen, she passed her driving test and bought a car. Two years ago, Saron moved into her own place in Utrecht. “It took me eighteen months to convince my mother,” she says. She’s now working on more projects than she can mention.

Role model

Everything Saron does is about helping people. In fact, this is why she chose to take a higher education course in Social Work. She became an ambassador for the IMC Weekend School and is currently working on a project closely connected with the Weekend School. It’s called IMC Next, and is aimed at young people from 16 to 21 years of age. Saron: “I didn’t have many role models when I came to the Netherlands as a teenager. I had to work it out for myself.” The project has already had a successful pilot and is set to be rolled out nationwide. Saron is looking for funding.

Alongside her course and her work for IMC Next, Saron also helps newcomers to the Netherlands at Diversiteit in Hulp. At New Dutch Connections, she helps underage girls without parental support to build a future in the Netherlands through the Girl Power Training project. “I want to be a role model to them, show them how things can work out”, says Saron. But she also has plenty of hobbies: Saron sings with the Catching Cultures Orchestra and dances and choreographs an Eritrean dance company that she set up herself. She’s acted in a series of films directed by her father and in a theatre production by Herman van Veen.

It looks as everything has come easily to Saron, but she’s worked extremely hard to achieve all this. “I want to help people. I want them to make the most of their lives, know that they are valued worthwhile and that life is great.”

Name: Saron Tesfahuney
Place of birth: Asmara, Eritrea
Age: 21 years
Motto: ‘If plan A fails, the alphabet has 25 other letters’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

Click here to view the other articles.