Service home launches project for Ukrainian refugees: “It is also up to employers to make an effort” (Antwerp)

Services at home has been providing home help to families in Antwerp and Kempen for fifteen years. In total, more than two thousand home helpers, representing 68 nationalities and almost as many spoken languages, work for the company. Employees receive appropriate training at a technical, linguistic and practical level. This training takes place in small groups, but also 1 to 1.

With UA @ Work, of which “U” refers to Ukraine and “A” to Antwerp, the company focuses specifically on the employment of Ukrainian refugees. “We immediately felt that we have an important role to play from a social perspective,” explains CEO Koen Umans. “But it also quickly became clear to us that it is not a good idea to lead these people to a new job unprepared.”

Therefore, a Ukrainian servant, Olena Cherkalova, who is also a refugee, was initially hired. She was quickly ready to select Ukrainian graduates and train them along with the job coaches from Dienstenthuis. In mid-May, the first Ukrainian home helpers were hired and trained. Meanwhile, 11 of them are already working. It is intended that two to four new employees can start each week.

Olena Cherkalova. © koen fasseur

Translator and confidant

On Tuesday, Olena and job coach Kim Van Petegem coached Elisabeth (27) and Olga (33). “I have a wide network and I am looking for new employees in different ways,” says Olena. “I visit job fairs, but I also find new employees by sending messages via Facebook or via the secure communication network Telegram.”

Elisabeth and Olga were introduced to the operation of the company on Tuesday. Afterwards, Kim gave them an explanation about the content of the job, they got an explanation about the different cleaning products, about the organization of the cleaning work and they also got a number of ergonomic tips. Olena worked as a translator. “But she is also a trusted person that Ukrainian employees can always turn to,” Umans said.

Both Olga and Elisabeth do not speak Dutch and hardly any English. “But we understand English a little bit,” they say. In Ukraine, Elisabeth worked as a barista and as an administrative clerk. Olga stayed home when the war broke out to take care of her two young children. “My husband is still in Ukraine,” she says. “Here I was looking for a job with daytime hours so I could take care of my two children. Because I’m all alone. ” “I just used this opportunity to be able to work,” Elisabeth says in return. “That way, I hope to learn Dutch right away.”


Elizabeth. © koen fasseur

Because Servicehjem expects each new employee to make an effort in language acquisition. “We are not strict in the beginning,” says project manager Liselotte Verfaille. “But we expect our people to take action within six months.” The company also takes its own responsibility in this by giving employees a two-week linguistic immersion. “The intention is that we will now look at how we can roll out the entire project to all non-native speakers.”

Every talent counts

Both Labor Minister Jo Brouns and Councilor Tom Meeuws were presented to UA @ Work on Tuesday and were impressed. “It is also up to employers today to see what they can do. Because you can keep complaining that you can’t find people, “says Meeuws. “The targeted orientation to the work is an art. If you start working with people’s competencies, you jump further. There are sectors that can take this as an example. Just think of construction. ” And Brouns: “The lack of a labor market is an opportunity. We must dare to step more out of our comfort zone. “Every talent counts,” it is no longer a hollow slogan. “” Today, about five thousand Ukrainians live on our territory. So the potential is huge, ”concludes Meeuws.

Councilor Tom Meeuws and Minister Jo Brouns are introduced to the project.

Councilor Tom Meeuws and Minister Jo Brouns are introduced to the project. © koen fasseur

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