A look at emergency shelter for a crisis. “It is nice to see that these children are still two children despite the appalling situation.”

Behind the black tarpaulin-covered fences, dozens of children race on bicycles, tractors, scooters and go-karts. With temperatures below freezing, many play outside without a jacket or in shorts or sandals. However, the cold shouldn’t spoil the fun, as the little refugees rock across the asphalt with a big smile.

Not surprisingly, the outside is teeming with kids. The emergency shelter on the dam can accommodate 225 asylum seekers, half of whom are currently children. “Temporaries from five different continents live on this site,” says Jane Loebles, site manager. You take a tour of the shelter. “We deliberately chose to accommodate families as much as possible. That’s why there are so many children moving around.”

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With temperatures below freezing, many play outside without a jacket or in shorts or sandals.

The crisis shelter area consists of a large shed that serves as a living room, a white tent with sanitary facilities, bedrooms and a staff quarters. All areas are connected by long bare walkways. Outside, a separate barn has been renamed “Het Krijspaleis”, a place where children can play when it rains, for example. Today the barn is mainly used as a pit stop for various tractors, mopeds and bicycles.


Lobellous begins the tour in her office. She paints a picture of what the days at the shelter are like. “We provide a three-bedroom (BS) emergency shelter; Bed, bath and bread. Our catering system provides a meal three times a day and volunteers organize activities in consultation. For example, there is an hour of messing around with the kids every day. Parents often sit in the front row and join in the fun. The hosts are the point of contact for the refugees during the day. They take residents to medical appointments, answer questions and monitor common areas. In addition, doctors, janitors, firefighters, and a supervisor are present daily. It is pioneering because my position was born of necessity. Together with three others, as site manager, I am ultimately responsible for the entire reception on site. There’s a lot coming at us and we regularly work long days, but it’s no different. “

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Jane Lobels is one of the site managers at the emergency shelter site in Peyton.

It’s a back and forth at the shelter. Spaces become available regularly when we reunite refugees with their families or when they move to another location. In such cases, a bus arrives with new residents. The first thing we do upon arrival is to ask the driver how the flight went to gauge the weather. Then we receive the new refugees in a separate room. There they get a sandwich, because they made a long journey. And then, we have to start stumbling over.”

Dividing residents into different sleeping areas works quite a bit, says Loebles. There are three bunk beds in each bedroom so there is room for six people. “In this sanctuary there are people from five different continents, of different religions and races and speaking different languages. We must take this into account in order to maintain an overview, safety, peace and orderliness, ”says the site manager. The puzzles often take hours, and unfortunately we sometimes have to say “no.” If there is no match we cannot provide a place to sleep and then we have to send people back. Of course you don’t want that at all, and it’s not fun to give bad news, but it’s still our job. We have to be strict. It’s essential work.”

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Children’s drawings brighten up the shared living room.

a trip

It’s time to take a look at the shelter. Lawless leads the way. “Every day there are many security guards keeping an eye on things,” she says. The strict regulations seem to be working, because there is peace in the sanctuary. “Most of the residents spend their day in their rooms or in the common area. It’s noisier in the morning and then everyone takes a shower and has breakfast at different time slots. This also applies to lunch and dinner.

There are a number of laundry racks in the hallway adjacent to the sanitary facilities. Colorful clothes hang to dry. Our residents’ clothes are washed once a week by an outside company. We asked a number of women if they could do their own laundry. This is because they like to have something to do. Then our caretaker Hedo installed a number of laundry racks on the floor and since then the women have been washing themselves here and there. They do it manually in the large ponds of the sanitary facilities.”

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Caretaker Hiddo has installed a number of laundry racks on the floor so residents can do their own laundry.

Most of the residents today sit in a common room. The walls are decorated with drawings made by children with volunteers. There is a plant on every table and in the corner a Christmas tree that the residents got from the mayor.

A Syrian couple plays “Four in a Row”. Somewhat bored, they take turns placing the yellow and red discs on the playing frame. “We came to the Netherlands on October 27 and we have been living in this shelter for about five weeks,” says the young woman (29). “The first weeks were chaotic, because we had no hot water, but fortunately that has now been resolved.”

day care

Her husband (31) says the days are long. “There is always nothing to do while we wait. Nobody has answers to our questions and there are no courses we can follow. It’s frustrating.” Loblis explains why no courses are offered at the shelter. In principle, we provide shelter in emergency situations and do not participate in fusion. We have a number of volunteers who help with language learning, but it’s not our job from the shelter. Initially, the shelter will only be open until the end of December.”

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Throughout the shelter, there are drawings made by the children with the volunteers.

From the kitchen next to the dining room, laughter could be heard. A group of women is baking Lebanese bread. “Normally, people would cook for the residents, but today we have an exception,” says Loebles. “We understand they have food needs. The ladies are in the kitchen for hours and it smells great. This also happens under supervision.”

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Normally, the residents did the cooking, but today women are allowed to bake.

women are busy. Kneading three balls of dough, while the fourth woman rolls the balls with a rolling pin into a round flatbread. They say they make loaves of bread for everyone who stays in the shelter and are happy to be able to work for a while.

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A group of women is baking Lebanese bread.

Meanwhile, the kids are still busy playing outside. A six-year-old toddler warms his hands in a bowl of prepared noodles. He shares the hot snack with his friends. Using a large fork, insert a bite of the noodles onto everyone. The boys love it.

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Jane Lobels looks at the children and says that a number of children learned to ride a bike at the shelter.

And at breakneck speed, the other kids cross each other. Lobles starts laughing. Many children have learned to ride a bike here. They drive in circles all day and never stop. They only play indoors in “Het Krijspaleis” when it rains, but they prefer to stay outside. It’s good to see that despite the horrific situation, these kids can still be two little kids.”

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