Flanders looks for 10,000 'buddies' for newcomers

Flanders looks for 10,000 'buddies' for newcomers
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The Flemish government wants to create a "buddy system" as part of the Flemish civic integration programme to help newcomers in Flanders, announced the Flemish Minister of Civic Integration Bart Somers (Open Vld) on Thursday.

The Flemish civic integration is required for all adult non-European newcomers, who must pass a Dutch language test, a social orientation test, and register with Flemish employment services (VDAB).

From January 2023, the buddy system will be added to the civic integration programme. Newcomers will be paired with a Flemish buddy in order to practice their Dutch and get better acquainted with Flanders.

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Several initial trials had positive results and the program is now being rolled out across Flanders.

"We estimate that 8,000 buddies will be needed in the first instance, but we are aiming for 10,000 because voluntary integrators also want to strengthen their social network," said Somers on Thursday when he was on the talk show 'De Tafel van Vier'.

Buddies wanted

It is up to the volunteers how much time they want to spend with newcomers. "Maybe you'll work out together, plan a trip or meet up for a weekly chat over coffee. Most importantly, you see each other regularly and your partner gets the chance to ask questions, learn the language, and get to know life in the area," said Somers.

A broad range of people applied for the buddy programme during the pilot projects. However, as it a voluntary programme, no compensation is given. Yet there could be other reasons to volunteer.

"You get to know someone you might never have come into contact with otherwise. Who knows, you might end up with a friend for life," said the minister.

More information can be found here.

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