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Sweden 'uninterested' in volunteers: charity head

Published: 03 Apr 2012 15:44 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Apr 2012 15:44 GMT+02:00

"I can't understand it, this is unprecedented," programme coordinator Veronika Westermark told The Local.

The group, which is set to arrive in Sweden on April 16th, has also not had enough offers from host families for housing. Forty of the group's members, coming from 22 different countries, are still "homeless".

"Up with People" is a global education organization, which, along with a "spirit of community and service" sends groups of 17-29-year-olds around the world to volunteer their help and showcase their performing arts.

Westermark added that the program has been an enormous success worldwide, with companies in Mexico, the US and Asia all eager to host and be helped. However, the trend has not continued in Sweden.

"The culture is so different in Sweden, there is more structure here. Perhaps this is why no-one wants help, and no-one wants to sponsor us – even though we're asking for nothing in return," she said.

She points to the possibility that Swedish companies prefer professionals when it comes to giving aid at child, animal, and refugee centres, and may be put-off by the concept of recently graduated high-school students doing professional work.

Westermark says that the team has been refused by companies including the Ronald McDonald house, the Salvation Army and Amnesty International, among others.

Sweden's Volunteer Centre (Volontärbyrån), while sympathetic to the project, has stated that timing was a big factor in why they could not help out.

"We only received their requests fairly recently, and these things take time to sort out," said Vanja Höglund of the Volontärbyrån to The Local.

Höglund adds that while there is possibly a difference stemming from country codes, with Sweden being more "traditional" than "community based", this does not mean there is no interest.

"But people are definitely interested in volunteering here, and people do need help. Our website is full, and we have even expanded recently into an English volunteer program," she said.

Meanwhile, Up with People will perform in Stockholm at Södermalm's Göta Lejon theatre between April 16th and 22nd.

Westermark says that the team members are still looking for host families, and anyone who can provide a place to sleep, three meals a day, and a safe environment should consider contacting the organization.

Oliver Gee

Click here to follow Oliver on Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

16:55 April 3, 2012 by EP
I think we need volunteers to clean up the litter and make cities clean in Sweden. Nothing gets done here on the weekends or after 15.00 on weekdays. The streets are filthy and full of rubbish on the weekends, bring in the volunteers to clean the streets at the very least ...
17:04 April 3, 2012 by be reasonable
@EP

Don't try to conclude all volunteers have similar/same as job as yours(cleaning the litter)...lol
20:18 April 3, 2012 by Migga
@ EP

These aren`t volunteer cleaners. They sing, dance, preform and do shows as volunteers. Perhaps they have some workshops and the odd inspirational talks. The "help" they offer isn`t needed.

Also I don`t get the statment that Veronika Westermark made when she said that they offerd "help" even though they weren`t asking for anything in return. But that obviously isn`t true. They are asking for sponsors, host families, anyone who can provide a place to sleep, three meals a day, and a safe environment.
21:42 April 3, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
Up With People is still around?! Haha! They were the laughing stock of every Super Bowl halftime show in the '70's. Good for Swedes to not want them! They are just goodie-two-shoes annoying Christian teenagers.
08:34 April 4, 2012 by Grokh
doesnt everyone work as a praktikant in sweden nowadays isnt that non paid volunteer work ?

people can run a restaurant only using 0 paid or low paid praktikants -_-x
09:51 April 4, 2012 by robban70226
Good,

"Up with People" charity organization are just mascaraded propaganda organization hidding under a charity organization. We do not need those here,

Nice to see that somebody can see who they are and what are they after.
10:02 April 4, 2012 by Cephalectomy
Grokh praktikant is paid by the state or another place, otherwise you wont find people working apprenticeships
15:07 April 4, 2012 by Puffin
@ Cephalectomy - not sure the point you are making - there are many different forms of praktik both paid and unpaid

Perhaps the organisation should do a little homework before it arrives in a foreign country
17:09 April 5, 2012 by NickJT
I also think they should do their homework first before simply imposing themselves on Sweden and then expect families to house them and organisations here to simply take them on to do in some case work where they are not qualified to do. How naive of them even though they probably are well intentioned.
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