“For the past years I have been working with disabled children. Most of the children I work with have a mental age of a 2-year-old. Over the year I have learned to communicate with the kids in their own language. Many people don’t realize this but each disabled person has their own language. It’s a challenge but I try to learn each child’s language as best as I can. Every time it amazes me to see that despite of their limitations they still try to get their message across and even develop new skills. For example, one of the children recently sat on the toilet for a little while. Even though it might sound as if doesn’t make much of difference because the child will never be potty trained or go to the toilet independently, To them and to their parents it makes all the difference in the world.”

“Six months ago I had this crazy idea to start my own language school. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and since I was already teaching Dutch to expats I thought why not open up my own school. There are many language schools in Amsterdam but instead of just creating a place where people come to learn the language I wanted to build a community, a place where people can feel a sense of belonging. My students come from all over the world, Brazil, Mexico, North America but there are also students who left their country because of war and terror. In my school everyone is equal and we are all learning from each other, no matter if you are a student or a teacher. When I was living abroad in Mexico I noticed it was very hard to meet local people when you are a foreigner. That is why I introduce all my students to my friends. I set each of my students up with a language buddy so its easier for them to practice. Whenever there is an event I invite them. For example, last week we went salsa dancing and everyone loved it. So far none of my students have left the school and they even come early to class just to hang out. When someone doesn’t show up I know they have a legit reason and I’m genuinely worried. The best part of my job is that I get to spend my time with awesome people. A few weeks ago it was my birthday. I tried to keep it a secret but they had already figured out it out because of Facebook. Each of my students had thought of my birthday. They bought me flowers, wrote me birthday cards and they sang ‘’Happy Birthday’’ to me in 10 different languages. I’m not going to lie, it made me cry.”
I met Noémie at BenchesCollective – BankjesCollectief a really awesome initiative in Amsterdam which transforms public space into a meeting place for everyone. BenchesCollective is a movement that organizes the largest open-air café in the world consisting of ‘opened’ benches on the pavement in front of houses, in the park or on a city square.

A bench host decides what he or she wants to serve: a nice cup of coffee, home baked cake, a marble competition or dancing lesson. At the opened benches you meet your neighbours. From students, young families and chatty grannies to awesome people like Noémie. The next open-air café is on July 1st & 2nd. It’s a really nice way to meet new people so if you are in Amsterdam next weekend make sure to check it out.