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“My knowledge and acceptance of both cultures have given me an open mind”

My name is Maame. I was born in Kumasi, the second-largest city in Ghana West Africa in 1986. I came to Almere in the Netherlands in 2009.  I live in Almere-Stedenwijk Zuid and this is my story.

As the youngest daughter of 3 children, I was happy, pampered, and always playing outside in this beautiful tropical city. In my community, everybody knew everybody. Everybody was my dad, mum, auntie, and uncle. I always played with friends in the neighborhood after school, ate dinner at their house, and went home to sleep.

As a teenager, my mother taught me that acquiring things does not make you happy. Again she always told me that I can always build something big out of nothing if I work hard.

I also saw my mother practice what she preached. She followed her passion of starting a nursery school and building it from the scratch with a lot of struggle after quitting her full-time job at the Ministry of Agriculture and later succeeding. Seeing this, made me aware that I can also build from nothing, and struggle but succeed.

When I was 18 years old, I started my bachelor’s degree in culture and Tourism at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi. While I was there studying, I met my husband who was born in The Netherlands but has Ghanaian parents. We met at a social gathering and started talking. After the program, I offered to show him around my city and the rest is history. He was on vacation. Two years later, after I graduated, we got married and I moved straight from Ghana to the city of Almere on the 29th of October 2009. I came to live with my husband in Stedenwijk.

My first impression was about the weather. When I got out of the airport, I realized that it was very cold. It was also raining and the sun was shining at the same time. I thought,  how was it possible? I had never seen that before. The first week I was at home with my husband but by the second week, my husband left for work. I felt lonely, cold, and sad. I had never been by myself at home for such long hours.

We live in a 3 bedroom house with two floors where I was only looking out of the window to see anyone passing by. I had also no one to talk with. I missed my home in Ghana a lot and the whole day I was always looking forward to my husband’s return from work.

A few weeks went by and I started the Dutch language school at ROC Almere Muziekwijk. I attended the language school for 2 years. During my period of studies, I got pregnant with my 2 boys and when they were born, I became a stay-at-home mum. I was confused and frustrated because I was always home with my children. I wanted to start working and do something different, but I did not have anyone to take care of my children. I was a university graduate from Ghana who has turned into a stay-at-home mum living in a cold, lonely, country. I cried most of the time while I was home with the boys. I missed my family back home in Ghana.

During this time, my neighbor who has become my Dutch mother helped me a lot. She was very lovely and helped me by taking care sometimes of my children and learning the Dutch language. During this time I always remembered what my mum had taught me back home:- “You can build something out of nothing”-. This advice kept me going. I felt that there was hope, although I had to start all over again.

In 2014,  I went back to the university and had my master’s degree at the Vrije University in Amsterdam. After school, I did not apply for a job. I started my own business as a travel consultant. I later went ahead to start a virtual administrative company. Nowadays, I have started a podcast called Immigrants Making an Impact. I also volunteer at the local library (De Nieuwe Bibliotheek) to teach new immigrants the Dutch language. Considering all the things I do nowadays, I feel that I am operating for my purpose. I am connected to my community through the services that I offer. I am happy that I can make this world better than I found what I do.

I have now a lot of struggles with my businesses as an entrepreneur, but I know that I can build and make an impact out of nothing. I can start from somewhere and build to become successful. To me being a successful woman means living the highest and truest expression of myself. Success means offering my best to serve my community. Success means dying empty after I have used all my gifts to serve.

At this point in my life, I am no longer confused and sad, because I have gotten to know the Dutch culture better. I have added Dutch cultural values to my own ones. My knowledge and acceptance of both cultures have given me an open mind to manage my businesses, raise my children and make an impact in my community. I finally feel stronger, empowered, and impactful.

The future is bright because I know who I am, and what I want, and I am working hard daily to build and make an impact.

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Photos, Interview and Text: Lyla Carrillo Quan - van der Kaaden
Text Revision: Babette Rondón
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