The Story of an Outstanding Refugee

The Story of an Outstanding Refugee

Zina in Amsterdam , the Netherlands . The photo was taken by Mohamed kelzi.

In the Netherlands, as soon as an asylum seeker is granted refugee status and a residency permit, accommodation is provided outside reception centers. According to the Social and Cultural Planning Agency in the Netherlands, when residency holders live independently in municipalities, refugees can apply for social assistance benefits.

However, Syrian refugee Zina in the Netherlands chose a different path. Instead of seeking social assistance, she decided to become a pioneer in the field of cooking, embarking on her journey from the very first day of receiving her residency.

Here is the extraordinary story of a refugee. Zina started as a volunteer cook in a refugee camp in the Netherlands, quickly making an impact with her unique culinary skills. With courage and determination, supported by Sybe Bijleveld, she established her own company and proved her strength in the culinary field.

Zina in Amsterdam , the Netherlands . The photo was taken by Mohamed kelzi.

With the outbreak of wars, Europe has a long history of hosting refugees since the 1951 convention. According to UNHCR at the end of 2022, it hosted more than a third of the world’s refugees. European Union countries share a joint responsibility to welcome asylum seekers graciously, ensure fair treatment, and assess their cases according to unified standards. Zina became an example of an effective activist and a role model for refugees, as stated by Mark Rutte, contributing to the Dutch economy.

Zina was the first Syrian refugee to start her business immediately after receiving residency. She didn’t rely on financial aid from the state and issued invoices while still in the camp. Zina arrived in the Netherlands in September 2015, a business administration graduate who chose her passion for cooking as the foundation of her life and income, drawing on her experience in marketing and business management.

She expressed, “I always thought about getting closer and integrating with the Dutch people in a seamless way. I found that the closest way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.” The story began in the camp when she prepared a Christmas feast for 900 people, leading to subsequent projects in hospitals and with refugees.

Zina’s journey took an unexpected turn when Sybe Bijleveld, after a day of hard work, noticed her and initiated a conversation. Sybe, upon learning that Zaina didn’t have a company due to the lack of residency, believed in her talent and financially assisted her in establishing her own company, saying she only needed 70 euros to do so. On the same day she received her residency, Zina and Sybe registered the company under the name “Zina’s Kitchen.”

The photo was taken by zina abboud

Sybe became her business advisor, and Zina coincidentally catered dishes for the royal family in the Netherlands, occasionally preparing meals for them. Zina launched her cookbook on May 5th, receiving a signed copy from Mark Rutte.

In concluding the interview, Zina reflected on the hardships of being a refugee, expressing gratitude for being in a country that respects and values humanity. She emphasized that everyone faces difficulties in life, but challenges reveal aspects of ourselves we didn’t know. She expressed deep gratitude to Sybe and his support, which propelled her towards a successful future.

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