When I have my staying permit I will be able to stand up and talk

Patrick arrived from Cameroon in Holland in 1999. His life here has not been easy, but his faith gives him strength and optimism.

“Of course I had to get used to this new place, in the way everybody has to get used to a different and new country. You have to build up a new life and you have to get to know your new surroundings. But it was not difficult to find a job at the time and I could earn my own living. I am religious, my faith gives me strength, optimism. Yes, I did feel welcome here.”

Typically Dutch
“In 2004 I applied for a permit to stay. Life was not really easy for me, especially my wish to study was difficult to fulfil. I am a technician, I was a constructor in Cameroon. I got several diplomas that are accepted in other countries, for example England, but not here. I tried to start studying at InHolland, I did send them all my documents but I was always told there was something missing. That, I think, is typically Dutch.”

“In 2007 I wanted to go to my family in the United States. To get a visa to go to the US, I needed a medical check-up and so I discovered I was HIV positive. I was in shock. I had been struggling here to cope with my life as a foreigner; I tried to learn Dutch by myself, to get a ‘verblijfsvergunning’. It seemed that my life was going the right way and that I could see my family. Now, everything changed again.”

I took all my medication with me
“I never got the visa and never visited my family. My lawyer started legal proceedings to let me stay here on medical grounds. The court refused taking a decision, they said, because my lawyer had not sent them a list of my medication. But I only got medication last year, I did not need it before. Last year I went to court when my case was on the roll and took all my medication, to show to them. But they did not take a look at it. I do not understand that.”

No VIP, no treatment
“As I was healthy in 2007, I did not know about CD4-cells and all that things. I never went to see a doctor before. My doctors here are very professional and understanding. If there is something, if I feel ill, I can always phone them. Here I feel being cared for; I get the right medication and I have my health insurance. That would never be possible in Cameroon. If you are not a VIP and not rich, you really do not get the right treatment there.”

A person you can cry with together
“The HIV ‘consulente’ advised me to visit Humanitas and to ask the Aids Fonds to support me for my daily life. I got a bit of support. I also have a contact person at Humanitas. But sometimes, it should be so nice to find a person you can cry with together. And I don't find them here. You do not tell everyone about your HIV. I know there is a contact group in Amsterdam, but I can't afford to pay the journey to Amsterdam.”

Very strange rule
“As long as my case is in court, I am not allowed to work. That is very annoying, because I feel healthy and I could support this country. Everybody who can contribute to the nation should be allowed to do that. And one feels better when one has a job. More fit. More worthy. I find it very strange that this rule exists in Holland. It's not right.
I have a lot of dreams, but I keep most of them to myself. One dream I want to share: I like to help others who are in the same situation as I was. When I have my staying permit, I will be able to stand up and talk.”


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