As a project manager iDrops, a social innovation organization, Hendrikje Meyvis provides refugee communities with new opportunities to develop their talents and skills in areas ranging from the arts to business. The organization’s work with refugees reflects its mission to offer people creative ways to overcome challenges and disadvantages. With the support of the U.S. Embassy in Belgium, she launched a program that collaborates with refugee communities to provide members with training and mentorship to pursue professional ambitions.
Hendrikje found her calling in iDROPS, a Ghent-based organization dedicated to tackling social issues through promoting a wide range of skills, from the arts to technology and business. As an artist herself, Hendrikje believes creativity is necessary for solving problems and overcoming challenges. And as an activist, she dedicates herself to working on behalf of those who are marginalised and deprived of professional opportunities. “I think that’s what makes me tick, trying to collaborate and make this world a fair place, a place where everybody can be happy and be seen and put into his or her talents – because I do believe that all people have talents,” she explains.
As a project manager at iDROPS, Hendrikje always searches for new ways to nurture people’s creativity and skills. In partnership with the U.S. Embassy, she launched Connected.Dots, a program that develops talents and promotes entrepreneurship within refugee communities.
Through her work with disadvantaged communities, Hendrikje has found that many problems in society stem from a failure to embrace diversity. “You sometimes feel that people are scared of people with another background, which is a challenge that we try to work on,” she explains.
While iDrops works on international projects, she finds that there is much work to be done to tap into the power of diversity here in Belgium. Connected.Dots not only serves marginalized communities, but includes them as collaborators. “Within the team ‘super diversity,’ we work a lot with refugees,” Hendrikje explains. “We develop projects, quite often in co-creation with them.”
“If you talk about identity, I can't say that I'm just Belgian.”
Hendrikje is proud of how Connected.Dots combines multiple refugee-focused initiatives into one streamlined program. Therefore, it represents the culmination of years of striving for innovative solutions to the refugee crisis. Building “21st century skills” is a main focus, Hendrikje explains. For example, the program conducted training on fashion and entrepreneurship at a refugee center in Lanaken. At a refugee center in Linkeroever, the program collaborated with Afghan women to develop a catering service. Training in video production for young refugees living in Antwerp allowed them to not only learn new skills but to tell their stories.
Travelling the world and living abroad have developed Hendrikje’s global perspective – and a deep appreciation for the power of diversity and collaboration. “My dream for the world would be that every person can have his or her place in an equal way.” She plans to continue expanding the scope of her work with iDrops across the globe. “I see myself physically in Belgium, but being able to develop our projects in other countries. Working with a lot of interesting people, inspiring them, and being inspired by people. Coaching future leaders in social innovation, and in making this world humanity-proof.”“I feel very connected to people who are living in all kinds of worlds.”