“I always felt different from the people in my neighborhood. I loved reading old books about philosophy and to talk about politics and religion. With most of my friends I could only talk about soccer. We never had deep conversations. I like to think possibilities are endless but whenever I would dream about the future my environment would pull me back back to ‘’reality’’. I have always known that I have a lot to offer but I could never figure out what it was. At seventeen I went to study and for the first time I was the only Moroccan boy in the class. I had never felt like a foreigner before. Some of my classmates would make fun of my accent and I started to feel insecure. I could not adjust to my new surroundings and after one month I dropped out of college. When the new school year started I applied to study to become a teacher. The curriculum was never hard for me but I never felt as if I belonged. At 24 I was on the edge of a depression. I wasn’t living up to my full potential and I was no longer motivated to finish my studies. I knew I desperately needed a change of scenery so when a friend of mine tagged me in a Facebook post about a social project in Turkey I immediately applied even though It was completely out of my comfort zone. I went with a Dutch delegation and soon I noticed that I shared the same interest with many of the other participants. I was having deep conversations with people who were very different from the people in my neighborhood or school. During the day we had activities and in the evening we would come together to talk and make music. I know it all sounds a bit hippie-ish but it lit a fire inside of me. On my way back to Amsterdam I realized that something special had happened. I felt that this experience had changed my perspective and outlook on the future. I was optimistic and inspired. Together with a friend who also participated in the project we started to pitch ideas. Two days later we received a message that the organization that took us to Turkey was looking for a partner in The Netherlands. We met the Founder and he encouraged us to set it up. One month later we were an official NGO and planning our first trip. Now we take young people on exchanges all over Europe to participate in social projects. I try to take them out their comfort zone and to empower them by sharing my own story. The best part is that these exchange projects really have a big impact on them. It’s 3 years later and my life has completely changed as well. I’m no longer insecure and because of my NGO I have faith in myself. I finally feel that I’m using my potential and I know that this is only the beginning.”

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