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Volunteering in English launched in Sweden

The Local · 16 Nov 2012, 13:42

Published: 16 Nov 2012 13:42 GMT+01:00

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“It feels fantastic! It’s unreal to have an idea and then finally see it happening,” programme founder and UK-native Claire Thomas told The Local at the launch.

Back in April, Thomas hatched the idea of an all-English volunteering website after realizing that without knowing Swedish, it can be almost impossible to find opportunities to help out in Sweden.

“We had quite a few people coming through who said ‘I want to volunteer’ after seeing it on The Local,” Thomas explained.

Following a public call for donations, the team attracted the attention of the Swedish Postcode Lottery (Postkodlotteriet) which injected the final sum to make the idea a reality.

The project was officially launched at the residence of the US ambassador in Stockholm on Thursday with deputy ambassador Bill Stewart giving his seal of approval.

“If you don’t have Swedish language skills it doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer anymore. That’s what this is about. It’s now open to visitors and immigrants who want to be helpful but have felt held back due to language,” he told The Local.

“There’s an urban myth that Swede’s don’t volunteer but it’s totally wrong. 48 percent of adult Swedes volunteer at least 16 hours a month – its huge. Now the organizers here have tapped into the resource of people living in Sweden who can’t speak Swedish but want to help.”

The project went live online two weeks ago as a subset of the well-established Voluntär Byrån, a Swedish agency launched 10 years ago and founded by Amelie Silfverstolpe.

“We’ve been longing an English section for a long time, but haven’t had the resources. When Claire came with all her energy and knowledge, I said, 'go ahead, I totally support you',” she told The Local.

“The English part of things is really important. Great people are coming here from other countries and in Sweden we’re really bad at taking care of the knowledge and the passions they bring. I think we could do better with the immigrants in this sense.”

Now, as the project slowly gains momentum, Thomas is excited about the future.

Story continues below…

“There are eight volunteer opportunities on the site right now, and that’s eight more than were available for English speakers before,” she said.

“We’ll see where we take it from here, there’s a lot of scope to push it into specific areas where volunteering can help. There’s a lot of opportunity and it’s quite exciting.”

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:40 November 16, 2012 by Rogerenden
""If you don't have Swedish language skills it doesn't mean you can't volunteer anymore. That's what this is about. It's now open to visitors and immigrants who want to be helpful but have felt held back due to language," he told The Local. "

Other idea: You learn some basics of the damn language (which can be expected!) and then start volunteering. Positiv effect: You do something useful and improve your language skills.
17:46 November 16, 2012 by rebelart.se
@ Rogerenden i am so tired of u pale pagan lizards defending the indefensible...sweden has nothing to give people who are not swedish.......learning the language is a waste of time....for those who want to volunteer good luck......

you Rogerenden are probably a white european who has benefited from the swedish apartheid racial set up that places peoples of scandinavian white descent on the top of the pile......oh i said scandinavian whites not europeans generally....as being white in sweden is not enough ....so imagine what its like for blacks or non-whites.......

as i imagine you can't imagine...its impossible....
21:22 November 16, 2012 by Fernandis
this is just non-sense to be volunteer without native language skills. If you don't want to learn Swedish but just keep English, then ideal is to go back where you come from and utilize your volunteer work there which can benefit many more people.
21:42 November 16, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
I agree with @rebelart. I am a white male American yet have never felt welcomed here (except by my Swedish wife and her family). I have friends from my SFI class who are white and from other northen European contries and they have told me many times that they feel the same way.

Swedes are not very welcoming to anyone except oher Swedes.

I would never waste my time volunteering in this place.
21:46 November 16, 2012 by skogsbo
This little project has all the hallmarks of a bored US/UK diplomat's wife, who didn't want to learn Swedish looking for a little hobby to pass a few years. What she has started is an anti-integration programme, when a perfectly good and functioning Swedish volunteering society already exist. What a waste of peoples time.
12:42 November 17, 2012 by Dr. Dillner
Volunteering is wonderful. We should all celebrate these people's energies and put aside any disparaging feelings of shunning.
10:31 November 20, 2012 by Bolinb
I am an Australian living in Sweden and I have to say this idea has potential. I can not find work and so can not improve my Swedish skills. My Swedish partner is not interested or not able to help me learn Swedish and we live to far away from a city centre (60 Km) where I can learn more than basic SFI.... Hmm Can't work, Cant study. Cant meet people to learn more Swedish. Maybe volunteering with people that speak both English and SWEDISH will be helpfull.. But being unable to read more than basic Swedish means I cant find things to do...... Sounds like a bit of a life-line for those of us that are neglected by Swedish society......
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