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  • Writer's pictureHLE Network

Volunteers united across language communities

July 10, 2023

Today the 35th edition of HowDo magazine was launched, an English-language publication in the Eindhoven region. Check out the article about the role of volunteer work in heritage language education. Thank you to Holland Expat Center South and HowDo for the opportunity to address this topic in their latest issue!

Volunteers united across language communities

It is fortunate for many multilingual children in Eindhoven that there are after-school and weekend educational programs in place to help them develop their home language. These "heritage language" programs vary in how big they are, how long they have been around, and how much support they receive from the country of origin -- but they have one important thing in common: most are grassroots organizations run by volunteers.

Totally worth it

Starting up, running, and maintaining a heritage language program can be complex, due to unavoidable logistical challenges. In fact, it has been said that teaching heritage languages happens "against all odds." However, success is not impossible, and when achieved, the results are incredibly rewarding! Children with a migrant minority background grow up more confident in their identity and are able to read and write in the home language. Families who are brought together support each other with integration.

One volunteer told us, “I do not count the hours I spend running the course.” She explained, “I do it out of passion. I do it for my child.”

Kindred spirits

Until just a few years ago, the groups running heritage language programs in Eindhoven were operating independently of each other. When HLE Network was formed to bring the groups together for networking and joint projects, the response was positive. Because of the time, dedication, and determination that is necessary to maintain this type of educational program, the volunteers involved felt an immediate connection with one another. “Do you also sacrifice your days off to run a small school? Tell me all about your experience!” Being able to approach others in the city for ideas, inspiration, and advice is very helpful when it comes to the tricky topic of educating children in a minority language.

Joint victories

The volunteers who run language programs in Eindhoven have shown that they can achieve great things through collaboration. There are now more than 5000 books in Eindhoven Library's International Children's Book Collection at the Witte Dame thanks to the joint efforts of numerous language groups. For the National Read Aloud Days for Multilingual Children in January 2023, the picture book of the year was read aloud in fifteen different languages, including English and Dutch.

Much-needed recognition

Networks based on a particular language spoken (across different locations in Europe or the world) are common, but networks of programs across different languages operating in the same region is less common -- and is something that makes Eindhoven special! We know that in order for heritage language programs to succeed in the long term, they must be recognized and valued by the broader community where they operate. Volunteers must feel appreciated if they are expected to find the motivation to continue their work. HLE Network aims to raise the status of this important form of supplemental education – and we take every opportunity available to thank the people involved for their contribution to our increasingly multilingual society.

For more information, visit

Search "voorlezen" in Eindhoven Library’s agenda to find activities in different languages.


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