A voice for newcomers in Sweden

Tasty Swedish recipes for ‘baking’ love, tolerance, and integration

Inessa Korshun, Samantha Fernandez, and Navid Kamyab show off baking with love. Photo: Våga Hjälpa (Note: image is a montage)

Published: 12.Apr.2016 09:27 hrs

There’s no reason why integration should leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.

Sugar, butter, egg yolk, potato flour and vanilla are few classic ingredients used for baking a popular Swedish cookie known as vanilla hearts (vaniljhjärtan) – and the same ingredients are baked differently nowadays to promote love, respect, and engagement among new constellations in Swedish society.

A fresh plate of vanilla hearts (vaniljhjärtan)

The sweet smell of vanilla is in the air at the Dynamo café near Skanstull in Stockholm. On a brisk evening earlier this year, a group of people gathered to put on aprons and get their hands dirty mixing and kneading a diverse set of ingredients into tasty treats.

“It's a fantastic chance to create friendships between people from different countries, improve your Swedish, and learn new recipes. You basically learn many things at the same time,” says Navid Kamyab, 31, from Iran.

Baking enthusiasts Inessa Korshun (Russia); Samantha Fernandez (Spain); Emmanuelle Floquet (Sweden) and Navid Kamyab (Iran). Photo: Våga Hjälpa

Navid is one of several people who turned up this evening to participate in a project known as ‘Bake with Love’ (Baka Med Kärlek), which gives him and others a chance to meet new people and learn new things.

The project, which is designed to build bridges between different people and promote values of respect, tolerance, and friendship. No special skills are required to join up – simply a desire to “make a difference”.

“We want to offer fun and easy projects that make a difference and that everyone can get involved in,” says Hebbah Elgindy, one of the project’s organizers.

The baking project is run through an organization known as Våga Hjälpa (‘Dare to help’), which was founded by Hebbah and Tanya Syed back in 2014.

Maria del Carmen (Spain), Ricardo Merino (Spain), Sonia Jonsson (India) Chellen (Hong Kong) and with Våga Hjälpa co-founder Tanya Syed

Realizing that one of the biggest integration challenges for newcomers in Sweden is creating social networks, the two hoped to promote social engagement between newcomers and established Swedes by organizing fun and creative activities centered around baking cookies and building meaningful relationships.

“It’s a place that helps people finding dedication and joy in their everyday lives,” Tanya adds.

In addition to Bake With Love baking sessions, Våga Hjälpa also organizes Bake With Love Language Cafés where, in addition to baking, improving participants’ Swedish language skills is also on the menu.

“It’s a very cool event where I got to learn more about baking. Although I have beginner's Swedish, it’s also a good exercise for learning more Swedish and meeting new friends,” says Chellen, a biomedical researcher from Hong Kong who also participated in the recent baking session.

The amateur bakers to a break to practice their Swedish. Photo: Våga Hjälpa

Tanya believes the project helps enhance the sense of community interaction by improving Swedish skills and inspiring stronger social ties among newcomers and Swedes.

“I’ve seen participants join the café barely speaking a word of Swedish and at the end of the event speaking almost fluent Swedish. This happens every time and it's very inspiring!” she says.

“I’m also amazed by how new friendships are formed. I even overheard some people inviting each other over for the summer holidays.”

Who's hungry?

Våga Hjälpa now runs several Bake With Love projects in Stockholm and has also launched in Örebro in central Sweden.

As a result, the group is always on the lookout for more volunteers who are also looking to establish new connections and enjoy some vanilla hearts along the way.

“Many participants actually join our organization afterwards as volunteers. It's a simple concept that has proven to be very successful since the start,” adds Tanya.

Are you interested in volunteering with Våga Hjälpa? Visit their official website and follow the recruitment link (Note: site is in Swedish)

More Stories

Anas Awad with his "Swedish family" told his story to The Local Voices

Sharing the best of The Local Voices

We told a lot of great stories in 2016. Did you get to read and share them all? READ
Stockholm residents may have been surprised to hear loud noise and see the sight of 16 fighter jets flying over the Swedish capital on December 13th, but it's nothing to be alarmed about. READ
John Ausonius, one of Sweden's most notorious far-right killers has appeared in court in Germany for the first day of the trial over the murder of an Auschwitz survivor in Frankfurt 25 years ago. READ
Photo: Erik Gerhardsson

'History will record how everyone reacted to the Syrian tragedy'

Erik, a 21-year-old Swedish volunteer, reflects on his experience helping refugees in Sweden and abroad. READ
Sweden celebrates its favourite Italian Catholic saint on December 13th. Don't say these things to the Swedes on this beloved winter holiday. READ
Thieves used unconventional methods to rob a grocery store south of Stockholm on Tuesday night, cutting their way through the roof in order to avoid security alarms. READ
The Swedish government wants to tighten laws in order to stop people from being exploited as beggars, creating a new crime of “human exploitation” as well as increasing the punishment for other crimes in the area. READ
Swedish truckmaker Scania said on Tuesday it had appealed against an 880 million euro ($1.03 billion) fine imposed by the European Commission for alleged price-fixing and attempts to dodge costs for stricter pollution rules. READ

This Iranian teaches Swedish online to 10,000 followers

"I’m exporting Swedish to my homeland." READ