Investigative journalist and co-founder of the Lost in Europe project, Sanne Terlingen, shares one of the most memorable encounters she had this year:
"Bet-el Teklemariam is an interpreter and cultural
mediator. She fled Eritrea as a child and grew up in Germany. Like no other,
she has an eye for obstacles that refugees encounter, things I do not see with
my western eye. For example, if someone is illiterate and has never received
any mail before, how does that person distinguish that one important letter
from the Immigration Department from all the advertising brochures?
Betty sees these kind or errors in our system, and tries to correct them. She hands out No advertisement-stickers to newcomers that they can put on their mailbox. This is just a small example of what Betty does.
On her initiative, we made a radio documentary about women who travel afterwards, who are immediately placed in the home of their traumatized husbands, without integration. It was Betty who discovered that these women are often victims of domestic violence, but are unable to find their way to aid agencies. During the recording I noticed how Betty was there for these women, ready to help, day and night. Despite all those requests for help (and also thanks to a fantastic family), Betty always reacts warmly when we knock on her door, and she always does triple the work you ask from her, just out of commitment.
I have to admit that I already met Betty several years ago. But again and again, she surprises me every time I work with her. Betty is incredibly reliable and you can feel how she does her work from love and commitment.
Last Christmas, she travelled with Geesje van Haren to Calais to interpret during conversations with Eritrean refugees there. Even though she is helping so many women at home in the Netherlands, she decided that she wanted to do something for the refugees in Calais as well. February this year, she went back with her husband to bring pots full of Eritrean food and bags of sleeping bags, sturdy shoes and rain gear.
She also helped out our intern Annissa Warsame, who is working on a series about young people who committed suicide after arriving in Europe. She asked Betty to call a victim's uncle. Betty wanted to do justice to the deceased girl and her family, and called the uncle four times to be sure. So that Annissa got a full account of what was going on in the family.
Betty doesn't like to be in the spotlight. But I have rarely met anyone who is so committed to helping others from her heart. I hope that we will be able to work a lot with Betty in 2021."