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Sweden 'uninterested' in volunteers: charity head

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15:44 CEST+02:00
120 youth volunteers who are due to arrive in Stockholm this month with the "Up with People" charity organization have had their services refused by several Swedish companies, which are simply "not interested" in any help.

"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

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