Amsterdam, januari 11, 2024. By: Sarah Cuiper and Ibrahim Alfawal
After 100 days, we are looking back at our first period with our new CEO. Christina Hiemstra has taken over from Julius Weise, the founder of Welcome app. Since starting in October, Christina has been actively involved in various tasks. There was no time to waste and she started during the launch of our new app! Welcome app V2 allows users to make even more connections, get help from the helpdesk, participate in events and find relevant information on the information pages. The app is available in 10 languages. During her first 100 days, Christina spent time listening to newcomers, customers and partners and now has lots of ideas on how to further develop the platform.
Christina’s roots lie in a small village in the northern part of The Netherlands, in the province of Friesland. But as adventurous as she is, she left the small town behind, and explored a lot of countries around the world. She did this in various roles, amongst others she was a project manager for the UN and worked in Afghanistan, Senegal and South Sudan. During her time abroad, she has seen a lot of events happen in active conflict areas, for example how people were forced to flee their homes and leave everything behind. Christina: “I’ve seen a lot of what people can go through, people just like you and me who simply want to live their lives, but end up having to leave their country.”
After more than a decade abroad, she decided to come back to her home country. Being away from home made her realise how important family is for her. She saw a lot of people that couldn’t be with their families anymore because of conflicts around the world, but she still had the choice to see her family. So she decided to go back to the Netherlands. Back home she was confronted with the problems newcomers have here: “I discovered how strong they are, and sometimes they just need a little help to find their way, which is exactly what Welcome app does.” For example, some of her colleagues and friends from Afghanistan came to the Netherlands as refugees, and she supported them on their journey in The Netherlands, and she saw how difficult it can be to get started here when you’re new. These experiences have played a significant role in shaping her as an individual and determining her goals within this field of work.
She discovered Welcome app through a friend, and loved the positive and literally welcoming character of the organisation. Christina: “We [at Welcome app] stand for a welcoming society, and that really spoke to me…” What she had once experienced with her Afghan friends, she can now support at a bigger scale. For instance the need for her friends to get help settling in, the importance of accessible and relevant information and connecting with local people and services in a new country. “I want to give people the power to build their own lifes and make their own choices” Christina proceeds.
Christina combines her social point of view with a technological approach to reach this goal. “There is a lot of power in technology. How great would it be if when you’ve arrived at Ter Apel there is a QR code that you can scan and download the app and find everything you need? Or that it will show you the nearest doctors office, kind of like Google Maps for newcomers.” She wants to build a powerful tool that helps not only newcomers, but also municipalities and locals.
Reflecting on the first hundred days with Welcome app, she will work on continuing bringing people together and maintaining a positive voice regardless of the state of the world. “It’s about empowering people by being welcome!” says Christina.