‘I want to build a bridge between newcomers and Swedish society’

'I want to build a bridge between newcomers and Swedish society'
D'amour Dieudonné Nordkvist. Photo: Private
His life took him from a small village in Rwanda, via education and work in China, to Swedish Karlstad. This is the story of D'amour Dieudonné Nordkvist. After crossing half the world, now he's using his own experiences to help others to build their life in Sweden.

This article is part of The Local's My Swedish Career series. Read more interviews with foreign professionals in Sweden here.

“When I left [Rwanda], I was 22 years old. This was during the civil war and genocide, which was was a tough time for my country and its people,” he explains.

Economics studies took him to China where he began a career with Ikea and later got the opportunity to move to Sweden: “I was working for Ikea and got offered a job at the same company in Karlstad. My girlfriend, who I met in China, is Swedish. The combination of love and work took me to Sweden.”

These previous associations with Sweden meant that before even taking off to the Nordics, D'amour had a positive image of the country.

“Like many foreigners, I thought that Sweden was a country where everything is so perfect”, he says.

“With benefits like free education, human rights, gender equality, democracy, everything is ‘ideal’. I had a very positive image of Sweden.”

As for whether that rosy image turned out to be correct once he arrived in Sweden? D'amour laughs:

“Of course not! I was coming from China, and the Swedish system is totally different, it took some time getting used to that. People can be very reserved, sometimes if you say 'hi', Swedish people won't say anything back to you.”

Adapting to the structure of Swedish society was a challenge for D'amour.

“The hardest part of integrating in Sweden was for me finding people to do sports activities with”, he says. “I grew up in a culture where you can go out in the street and just play with a ball. Or go to a basketball place somewhere in the city, there are always people who will come and join you. In Sweden, sports are organized. You have to be a part of a team or organization to be able to work out.”


D'amour has been an immigrant in both China and Sweden. Photo: Private

But his permanent job with the famous furniture giant ensured that he found his place in Sweden quickly.

“Because I had a job at Ikea I immediately met people who helped me explain many things. But I was also meeting many people that never had the chance to integrate into society,” D'amour recalls.

“They weren't positive about their lives. Moving to another country is always a challenge. These people have taken the risk to move to another country. They have the determination to really do something with their life. They are not the kind of people who want to get things for free, they want to work hard for it. These people just need to be taught how the system works and how they can find a way to achieve their goals.”

“In 2015 many refugees were coming to Sweden”, says D'amour. “I realized that there were going to be more problems with integration. Then I decided to do something about it and to use my experiences to help others. To be an inspiration on how to live in Sweden as a newcomer. I was working full time in Ikea, and it was time to move on. Do something for the community, something I would be proud of.”

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So he used his experiences to set up Igitego, an organization that helps people who move to Sweden with sustainable integration. Participants from the Karlstad region develop themselves and get help in starting a business or getting a job.

“I am helping people to achieve their goals. Igitego began in 2016, in our programs we've met over 600 people. We have had 40 companies that work with us,” he states.

Integrating twice in different cultures taught D'amour that there's not a 'perfect' way of living.

“Moving from Rwanda to China and from China to Sweden introduced me to so many different ways to live”, he says.

“In Sweden, people are very individual. That was new to me. At first, I considered this a bit selfish. And then I learned that it's okay to be individual. Each society and culture works and functions in its own way. The Chinese way is good for the Chinese people, the same applies to the Rwandan and Swedish way of living. I have learned that the best way to live is to find a balance in everything.”

Recently D'amour published a book called 'Dad never got to walk on water' about his life and integration process.

“With this book, I hope I can inspire more young people who are now in Sweden to create their own life,” he explains. “Because if they don't see someone who looks like them, they don't get inspired. How can we create a new life for you, using what you already know? The book is translated in many languages like Arabic or the Somali language so people can read it in their language and start achieving their goals.”


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