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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Archive for March, 2012

The English Volunteering Project

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Last week’s Royal visit to Stockholm was a great success, I thought. Nicola and I were particularly pleased that Their Royal Highnesses were able to meet members of the British community, including some of those involved in volunteering, at our reception.

The Prince expressed particular interest in a project which is being started in Sweden – The English Volunteering Project.

The project has been started by a British woman called Claire Thomas, who, after moving to Sweden because of her husband’s work, realised that it was very difficult for people who don’t speak Swedish to find volunteering opportunities. She felt this was not a good thing as volunteering is an excellent way to help people become part of a new society, make friends, learn Swedish and gain work experience. So, as she has a background of working with the voluntary sector in the United Kingdom, she decided to use her experience to set up a project aimed at making it easier for people to volunteer here.

Sweden has a volunteering centre called Volontärbyrån which has been supporting and encouraging volunteering throughout Sweden for 10 years. However, its services are only offered in Swedish. Claire is working with them to make what they do accessible to anyone who can speak English.

The English Volunteering Project aims to

  • Adapt Volontärbyrån’s existing services (matching volunteers with non-profit organisations) so that they can be accessed by anyone who can speak English.
  • Work with and support Swedish non-profit organisations to make what volunteer opportunities they can accessible to non-Swedish speakers.
  • Make English speakers aware of the value of volunteering, the volunteer opportunities that are available to them, and to encourage and support them to volunteer.

The idea of the project has been received very positively by the international community in Stockholm, and Prince Charles indeed commented that it is ‘obviously a brilliant idea’. However, the project needs to raise around 80,000 kronor to pay for the changes that need to be made to the existing Volontärbyrån website, and this needs to be raised before July, or Volontärbyrån will cancel the project. All other work on the project can be done on a voluntary basis, but this minimum amount of money is required for the project to continue.

Claire is keen to talk to anyone who may be able to help support the project, including companies who use English as a working language or who have lots of English speaking employees. Her contact details are claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org or 0708 38 15 73.

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Some day my prince will come…

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

This week, as it happens! The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are paying their first official visit to Sweden on 22-24 March.

It’s part of a week-long Nordic tour, embracing Norway and Denmark.

Here in Stockholm, they arrive on Thursday at lunchtime and are greeted at Arlanda by Prince Carl Philip. There they also meet Swedish air force personnel and inspect a Gripen plane, as well as meeting representatives of its maker, Saab, and of the UK company, Selex Galileo, which makes some of its high-tech equipment systems.

I see this engagement as an opportunity to thank Sweden for the important role it played in the NATO-led Libya operation and to mark UK-Sweden defence industrial co-operation.

Their Royal Highnesses, accompanied by the Queen and Prime Minister Reinfeldt, then visit Fryshuset, to meet and talk to young people and to the centre’s leaders about the great work it does in tackling gang violence and other social problems and in promoting integration, all themes close to the heart of the British and Swedish governments and Royal Families.

My wife and I are hosting a reception that evening, for the Prince and Duchess to meet members of the UK community in Sweden, particularly those involved in community service and volunteering, which are themes of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

On Friday, Queen Silvia and the Duchess visit the British International Primary School and a Swedish pre-school. The King and Prince Charles visit the Stockholm Resilience Centre, to discuss climate change and the challenges facing the planet, and then they go to St Erik’s housing development to see a leading example of community-centric urban architecture. Both of these themes, the global environment and the built environment, are of course dear to Prince Charles’ heart. As is renewable energy, and I will be hosting a meeting for him to meet leading Swedish players in the biomass sector.

On Saturday, Their Majesties accompany Their Royal Highnesses to the Vasa, without which no trip to Stockholm would be complete! There will be a brief walkabout near the Vasa Museum, around 11.00 on Saturday, which would be the best occasion to catch a glimpse of our Royal visitors. They complete their 48 hours in Sweden with a visit to Saltå Kvarn to see an organically based mill and bakery in operation.

The themes the visit covers reflect the challenges of modern societies – sustainable growth, energy and agriculture, education, international security and integration – that the UK and Sweden are tackling together.

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