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

Swede's Employment Minister Ylva Johansson, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, and US Ambassador Azita Raji. Photo: US Embassy

How can refugee women make their mark in Sweden?

Swedish ministers, the US ambassador, and organizations promoting gender equality and refugee integration met in Stockholm last week to discuss the role of refugee women inin their host country. The Local Voices was there. READ
Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq. READ
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row. READ
Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes. READ
Paul Hansen, a photographer working for Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, has sustained light injuries after being hit by what appears to be a sniper while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq. READ
Ratiba says living in Sweden will "give a new meaning" to her life.

Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens

Ratiba Hanoush, 28, left Syria for Turkey in 2012 before arriving in Sweden last year. She admits that she still feels like an outsider, but explains why she is happier here than at home. READ
Hundreds of people on Saturday turned out for a torchlight procession in the small town of Trollhättan in southwestern Sweden to honour the victims of last year’s deadly school attack there. READ
Sweden's environment minister on Saturday urged the European Union to ban petrol and diesel-powered vehicles from 2030. READ
Hundreds of people on Saturday demonstrated in Stockholm and in many other parts of the country to protest Sweden’s tough new laws on asylum-seekers. READ
Swedish national Osama Krayem, linked to the deadly attacks in Paris on November 13 and in Brussels on March 22, is now suspected of having plotted to attack also the Schiphol airport in the Netherlands. READ
Justus and Emma

A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage

Closeness, selflessness, and pleasure; falling in love is a strange but wonderful human experience. READ