Diane Gleis (third from left, wearing a green shirt) and Mohammed (centre, wearing a white shirt) are seen during a dinner with family and friends at her home on 5 September 2017
Photo: Maison Moderne
Twice a month Diane Gleis meets up with Mohammed, a Syrian refugee, and includes the young man in family trips across the grand duchy.
It’s a heart-warming story, driven by spontaneity--a lot like Diane herself. Every two weeks, she, her family and 27-year old Mohammed meet up for dinner or for cultural trips across Luxembourg.
In 2013, Mohammed left his home town of Aleppo. After he was accorded international protection in the grand duchy, he found a job at Nei Arbescht and started taking French lessons. He told Delano on Tuesday evening that once his French was fluent, he would learn Luxembourgish.
Diane and Mohammed didn’t follow the usual NGO programme, instead she organised everything herself. According to Diane:
“I already registered as a volunteer, but then I thought it would be nice to just meet some of the newcomers and invite them home, to really get to know them personally. Not as a group, but individually. I approached a social worker from Härebierg [in the commune of Diekirch] and asked if I could invite one of the refugees to my house. I was sitting among a group of Syrian men, and it didn’t take long for them to point out Mohammed as the right one for this project.”
Ever since, Diane has been showing Mohammed what local products go into her homemade dishes, booked boat trips on the Moselle and took him to visit Trier. She even reached out to find an apartment for him. After all, Diane’s mission is to help Mohammed to integrate and live an independent life in the grand duchy.
However, their monthly cultural exchanges work both ways, as Diane has gained a new understanding of Syrian culture, in particular of women: “they live much more modern lives than what we perceive.” By sharing her experience with friends and family, Diane has found some supporters who identified commonalities between their emigration history and the refugees’ experiences, she said on 5 September.
As a nurse, Diane told Delano that she avoided sick people in her free time. Instead, she preferred to offer her emotional support to people like Mohammed, and with a smile she added: “I already received much more than I can give.”