A Conversation with Adel AlBaghdadi

“We want to give them the floor to share their personal story, to show the human being behind these labels.”

This interview was conducted by our intern Allie Murphy

Today we had the opportunity to talk to Adel AlBaghdadi, founder of the young non-profit social enterprise WE organization, about his perspective on social inclusion. Together with Razan Damlakhi, WE organization is dedicated to developing projects targeting issues such as xenophobia and populism by organizing workshops and seminars at large corporations and agencies. Their mission is to change mindsets and attitudes of our society to realize that social inclusion is a value for everyone by starting the initial dialogue. Through educational training and their consulting work with their program, WE are the information, they serve as an advisory service on topics such as migration, integration and inclusive working and thinking. 

One project of WE organization that relates to what we do here, is their project WE ARE THE REFUGEES, which uses its platform to tell the stories of refugees and other marginalized groups. Through the power of conversation, and standing by the notion, “Talk with us, NOT about us”, WE organization ensures that refugees remain in control by being their author to their own stories.

“The biggest part is changing the narrative” Adel says. “We need to realize that migration is part of the human spirit. We will always be moving, and we can’t receive it as something negative”.

Adel mentions the importance of empathy when it comes to social inclusion. By introducing refugees’ stories to host countries, he hopes to reduce the stigma behind the labels given to migrants by giving them a human perspective. 

“We are all ‘labelful’: everyone has labels and unfortunately, refugees are full of negative labels and perceptions. We want to give them the floor to share their personal story, to show the human being behind these labels. While I can’t speak on their behalf, we need to start a conversation and see the person as a person”. 

When Adel started this organization in 2015, he wanted to let refugees tell their own story: “We want to claim the label, not let the label claim us. Back in 2015 when the big wave of migrants came, people called it a crisis. That word has a heavy meaning. No one wanted to come because it was nice. We want to show why people really came to Europe, bring empathy to both sides. We should stand next to each other”.

On the topic of how we can integrate social inclusion in the labor market, Adel brought up a very important point.

“Language is important but being able to build a social network is the best integration. You feel more at home, a sense of belonging, which will allow you to contribute and become an active member in society”. 

 “There is so much wasted talent in the EU because a certificate is all people look for.” WE organization put on an event called ‘Geen-Woorden-Maar-Daden’, which is Dutch for Not-Words-But-Deeds. This event gave refugees in The Netherlands an opportunity to show off their carpentry abilities and be judged by experts to prove they have the skills and devotion to work equally amongst local citizens. 

Adel stresses the importance of realizing that underneath labels are ordinary people. We forget that, which is why WE organization emphasizes the personal stories behind each refugee. 

“The stature of refugees is temporary, but the stature of a human is permanent”.

Beyond giving speeches, WE organization also works with other companies as a consultant to improve their programs for integration. WE organization tailor their expertise and create the perfect solution for each corporation. By doing this, they are starting the change they wish to see, by starting the conversation and inspiring others to action. And that is something we should all live by.