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Are you a budding writer? Got it and want to flaunt it? Your Living City is looking for Stockholm’s most FABULOUS contributors – and we mean YOU!

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YLC is expanding and we need more writers who are dedicated to make Your Living City Stockholm THE online magazine for Internationally minded Stockholmers! We strive to have the best info, the most interesting stories and the most personal voices in Stockholm!

We are currently looking for contributors (writers/photographers) interested in writing on subjects as diverse as:

  • Swedish Fashion/Beauty
  • Club/Pub Scene
  • Swedish Politics/Equality issues
  • Stockholm Sport: football, cricket, rugby  (whatever tickles your fancy)
  • Swedish Tech: innovations, start ups, etc
  • Book reviews/author interviews with Swedish authors
  • University life/Life as a Stockholm exchange student
  • LGBT Stockholm

However, are you itching to write about something that’s not on the list – feel free to pitch us a story anytime!

Although we are at present unable to pay our contributors, we DO offer a unique chance to get your voice heard, gain experience for your CV and grow as a writer –  as well as the opportunity to attend events (venue openings, Stockholm Fashion Week, festivals) in Stockholm as a (fabulous) YLC representative.

Please get in touch with us through the contact form or by emailing rebecca@yourlivingcity.com

Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

John Sjölund saves lives. Having co-created a device that makes life easier and safer for those with diabetes, he’s taking the medical world by storm from Stockholm and London. YLC’s Kirsten Smart gets the dose from the Timesulin creator.

John Sjolund 2 copyJohn Sjölund pictured with the potentially live saving Timesulin devices.

Approximately 388 million people have diabetes. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030, with total deaths from the condition projected to rise by over 50% in the next 10 years.

The two most prevalent types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. A vast majority of those living with diabetes fall into the Type 2 category, which is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin (needed to enable the body to store glucose) or builds up a resistance to it. Unlike Type 1, Type 2 can often be prevented through diet and exercise and those with it are frequently able to control it without the use of insulin injections. Type 1, on the other hand, is a result of the body’s flat out failure to produce insulin and those who live with it need to receive the hormone via injections or a pump in order to maintain blood sugar levels. Only about 5 -10% of those with diabetes have Type 1.

The problem

Swedish-born, US-raised ex-expat, Sjölund, falls into this minority.

Having lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 28 years, Sjölund takes over 1,500 insulin injections per year.

The worst feeling for him, though wasn’t the 42 000 odd needle pricks he has had to administer himself, but rather the feeling of panic associated with not being able to recall whether he had taken his insulin shot or not, as the practice had become so habitual. “It’s like forgetting whether or not you turned the coffee machine off or locked your front door.”  Sjölund explains, “I often found myself second-guessing whether or not I had taken my medicine.”

Sjölund isn’t alone in feeling this dosage dread. In fact it’s a common complaint amongst those with diabetes and the problem is twofold as the consequences of under or over dosing can be life threatening. “An accidental double dose can be extremely dangerous as your blood glucose levels will drop and this could lead to a coma, or even death. So I wanted a simple solution that would show me the time lapsed since my last insulin shot to help avoid an accidental missed or double dose of insulin – along with the dread of not being sure.”

“With a forgotten insulin injection you eventually get the symptoms of high blood glucose levels, but by that time you’re already feeling ill,” says Sjölund. To tackle this problem, he and his brother set about inventing a way in which one could track the time between injections in order to prevent potentially life threatening dosage mistakes. Thus the Timesulin device was born.

The Solution

Launched in 2011 by Sjölund and his brother, Andreas (a co-creator of Skype), Timesulin aims to make life with diabetes as simple and worry-free as possible for those who use insulin injections. The lightweight, battery-operated replacement cap fits on to the most common brands of insulin pens just like the cap of a pen. After administering a dosage of insulin, all the user needs to do it replace the cap on the pen and immediately the Timesulin device begins visibly to count the numbers of seconds, minutes and hours since you last took your shot. It’s simple, effective and easy to use and best of all it could just save lives. In a word, it’s genius.

Before inventing Timesulin, Sjölund worked for Acceleration E-Marketing in Cape Town, South Africa. The company enabled him fantastic opportunities to grow, learn and travel, as he worked for their offices in Cape Town, New York and London, where he eventually left to start up Patients Pending LTD, the company behind the product, Timesulin.

After founding the company in September 2010, the Timesulin team opened an additional office in Stockholm in January 2013, from where they cover the Nordic markets and manage all online sales.

“Stockholm has proven to be a great place, both to live and work from. We are surrounded by smart people who share the common value system of helping others.”

“The city is also a hub for innovation and design – both elements in which Timesulin shines. I feel very lucky to have been able to plant our roots in the UK and now blossom this tree over here in Stockholm.”

Little Fish, Big Splash

And blossomed it has.The Timesulin device is already a best-selling product in Europe’s largest diabetes charity organization, Diabetes UK, and the company has distribution partners in over 45 countries around the globe. Sjölund himself was listed as one of the TOYP (Ten Outstanding Young People) in Sweden in 2012 and was invited to meet British Prime Minister, David Cameron, at Downing Street to talk about being a Small/Medium Enterprise in the UK.

“To be honest we’ve been very surprised at the reaction we’ve received from the market for such a simple device,” says Sjölund.

“Most importantly for me, though, are the letters we receive from Timesulin users from all over the world saying that we’ve helped them live safer, more balanced lives with diabetes – that is my ultimate goal.”

But despite their success, it’s not always smooth sailing.

“We’re a small business in a land of huge, mega pharmaceutical companies and the barriers to entry in a new market with a medical device is high. But we’re thrilled with the support we receive from our customers and fans and we’re continuing to expand our relationships with bigger pharmaceutical companies and diabetes associations. We also have some exciting new launches planned for next year; including product ideas that we believe could make a huge impact.”

The prospect of making a bigger impact is certainly an exciting one. If a product like Timesulin could reach more middle and low-income countries where, according to the WHO, 80% of diabetes-related deaths occur, the effects would potentially be literally life altering. This kind of goal would take a lot of support and more years of hard work, but luckily for this young entrepreneur, time is on his side.

 

Check out Timesulin’s super funky, informative ad:

 

*Timesulin is currently looking for investment into the business to help improve the lives of those living with diabetes. If you’d like to be part of the next phase of Timesulin, contact them on +44 200 333 1879 or via e-mail at biz@timesulin.com. To find out more about Timesulin, visit their website, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter to show your support.

 

Kirsten Smart

Kirsten blindly followed her husband from South Africa to the land of snow and snus in 2011 and proceeded to procreate. When she isn’t discovering the 101st use of the humble wet wipe, she can be found writing adjective-laden articles for YLC.

me1 1 e1381346897680 Extraordinary Expats: Arno Smit of FundedByMe

 

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Claire Thomas’ dream has been realised and The English Volunteering Project now offers a place for people to find volunteering opportunities. We ask that if you run or are involved with a non-profit organisation and need volunteers, to please get in touch with her.

Finally, after a year of planning, work, fundraising and website development, The English Volunteering Project has been launched! English speakers who live in Sweden can now go to www.volontarbyran.org/english and find volunteering opportunities which can be done in English and other languages. There is also advice and information about volunteering in Sweden.

 It’s the first time that it has been possible for English speakers to easily find volunteering opportunities they can do in Sweden without having to speak Swedish.

Claire, launching the project at the American ambassador’s residence with her 10 week old daughter, Greta

 

The project launch was hosted wonderfully at the American Ambassador’s residence by the Deputy Chief of Mission William R. Stewart. We had a great time telling non-profit organisations and people interested in volunteering about the project, and enjoyed being in such nice surroundings. To see videos from the launch go to www.facebook.com/englishvolunteering

We expect the numbers of volunteering opportunities available to increase over time as more non-profit organisations hear about the new service. We are also hoping that as news of the project spreads there will be more opportunities available in other parts of Sweden. If there are no volunteering opportunities suitable for you just now then go to the ‘For Volunteers’ section and sign up to receive an email alert when suitable opportunities do become available (or have a look at the opportunities available in the Swedish section).

 

We are incredibly pleased that the project has got off the ground so successfully but we need more non-profit organisations to offer volunteering opportunities that can be done in English or other languages. If you or anyone you know are involved with a registered non-profit organisation which uses volunteers, (whether it’s a sports club, cultural group, campaigning group or any of the many other types of non-profit that exist) please do think about whether you can use people who don’t speak Swedish. It’s really easy and free to advertise for volunteers on Volontärbyrån’s website. Simply register your organisation first, then, when you register your volunteering opportunities tick the relevant box(es) depending on whether you want to advertise the opportunity in just English, just Swedish or both. If you have any questions contact us using the details on the website.

We think volunteering is a great way to get involved with Swedish society and make a real difference, and we look forward to making it possible for many more people to become volunteers.

 

Article: Claire Thomas

Photo Credit:  DLR/Thilo Kranz

People keep asking me whether I’m starting to wind down my activities and work in the last few months before the baby comes, but to be honest, if anything I’m doing more. It’s not ideally how I’d plan life to be, but I’m really pleased that after all my work trying to get The English Volunteering Project going, it is actually going to happen.

Because not only have we hit our FundedByMe fundraising target of 40,000kr (40,596kr to be precise), which means that Internetfonden are going to donate another 39,404kr more to enable us to hit our overall target of 80,000kr, but we have also been given funding by Postkodlotteriet (the Swedish Postcode Lottery).

Postkodlotteriet donates all its profits to good causes. Most of these are well established large organisations who work within Sweden. But they also have scope to support a small number of projects and organisations who either need help to start an area of work, or who work internationally. They liked the idea of The English Volunteering Project, and within a month we had met with them, put together an application, had that application approved by them (and the Swedish Gaming Board), and received a positive response that we were going to get the funding. This is incredibly fast, and I am SO grateful to the staff there for helping us through the process so efficiently and smoothly.

Our original target of 80,000kr would have enabled us to run the project in the most basic and simple way, relying entirely on voluntary support. The additional funding enables us to run it the way we want to – with printed materials, a launch event and a part time member of staff (me) to project manage getting the project off the ground and to work with the non-profit organisations. This last thing is particularly important as it is one thing to find people willing to volunteer, but quite another to find organisations who are willing to take on English-speaking volunteers. A lot of my time will be spent calling and meeting with non-profit organisations to encourage and support them to offer volunteering opportunities that can be done in English.

So, we now have a plan. Over the summer we have been developing an English section on the Volontärbyrån website, translating existing information and writing new material. In autumn we’ll be working with non-profit organisations to encourage them to post volunteering opportunities that can be done in English on the website. We will also be publicising the project and what it can offer. All this will all lead up to a formal launch event sometime in November.

A big thank you to everyone who donated money through the FundedByMe campaign – we really appreciate your support. There were over 2000 hits on the FundedByMe page over the course of the campaign, and it was really encouraging to see that so many people thought the project was interesting. Thanks also to everyone who has helped by providing encouragement, ideas, time and contacts. And of course, huge thanks must go to our two funders, Postkodlotteriet and Internetfonden. Things will now go quiet as Swedish summertime kicks in and I get busy trying to do as much on the project as possible before the baby arrives. But keep an eye out for us as in the autumn when the project will be properly up and running – something which I am very excited about.

By Claire Thomas

claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Check back in a few weeks to hear more about Claire’s progress.

Claire Thomas was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Northern Ireland and has lived in Scotland, England, Germany and now Sweden (where she hopes to stay for a good long while). In this blog she shares her experience of setting up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm

If you are interested in the project you can contact Claire by email at claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Like us on Facebook to follow the project’s progress – go to www.facebook.com/englishvolunteering.

The project is part of Volontärbyrån  www.volontarbyran.org

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences & ideas and hear their stories. If you have something to say or want to share about your Swedish journey, send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.

I love the Swedish summer – the sun is hot, the air is never that hot, the days are long, there are outdoor cafes and bars everywhere, there are lots of opportunities to swim in lakes and it feels so much more relaxed and sociable.

Those are the good things. But this is one of the areas where cultural differences arise. I come from the United Kingdom, where a two week holiday is a long one, people in offices stagger their holidays (so not everyone goes on holiday at once) and work slows down, but certainly doesn’t stop over the summer. So I find it difficult to get my head round the fact that from late May things are starting to slow down here, and after Midsummer (June 22nd) you can just forget about getting anything done at all.

Those are the good things. But this is one of the areas where cultural differences arise. I come from the United Kingdom, where a two week holiday is a long one, people in offices stagger their holidays (so not everyone goes on holiday at once) and work slows down, but certainly doesn’t stop over the summer. So I find it difficult to get my head round the fact that from late May things are starting to slow down here, and after Midsummer (June 22nd) you can just forget about getting anything done at all.

Part of me loves the focus on having a good long break from work, and I think this is very healthy. I also understand the desire to make the absolute most of the short summer in Sweden. But another part of me is rather frustrated by not being able to get things done for such a long period of time. This is compounded at the moment by the fact that just as things are getting going after the summer break I’ll be having a baby and will be out of action for at least a while – so it’s all the more important to me to get as much as possible done on The English Volunteering Project before Midsummer.

Fortunately the developers we’re going to use to build the English section of the Volontärbyrån website are not based in Sweden, so will be able to work on it over the summer. Big sigh of relief! And while my own 3 weeks of holiday feels luxuriously long to me, it is relatively short by Swedish standards and will enable me to get on with work while other people are still holidaying.

Next on my very long list of things to do is to find a number of people who would like to act as a reference group to help me develop some ideas about the project. If you speak English but little or no Swedish, will be in Sweden at least until the end of 2012 and think it would be good to do some volunteering while you’re here I’d love to hear from you – email me at claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

By Claire Thomas

claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Check back in a few weeks to hear more about Claire’s progress.

Claire Thomas was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Northern Ireland and has lived in Scotland, England, Germany and now Sweden (where she hopes to stay for a good long while). In this blog she shares her experience of setting up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm

If you are interested in the project you can contact Claire by email at claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Like us on Facebook to follow the project’s progress – go to www.facebook.com/englishvolunteering.

The project is part of Volontärbyrån  www.volontarbyran.org

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences & ideas and hear their stories. If you have something to say or want to share about your Swedish journey, send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.

 

I recently attended a wonderful lunch provided by the Red Cross on Kungsholmen for its volunteers. The food was delicious and it was very satisfying to spend an hour and a half having interesting conversations in Swedish – in which I was able to take part and which I understood most of.

I’m also always impressed when organisations make a real effort to thank their volunteers and donors– whether that’s by throwing a party, sending a thank you note or, as in this case, offering us all lunch. It’s a relatively little thing, but it is nice to feel appreciated. It benefits the non-profit organisation too, as happy volunteers are more likely to continue volunteering.

For over a year now I have been helping out at the Red Cross shop on Polhemsgatan. I do one three-hour shift a week and during that time I talk only Swedish. I also listen a lot to other people talking Swedish (very fast!). I’ve met some really lovely people there, both Swedes and non-Swedes, and they have been so patient with my stumbling Swedish and general inability to answer customer question more complicated than ‘How much does this cost?’.

As well as helping me with my Swedish and to meet new people, it has also been good, in the absence of a job, to have regular things scheduled to do each week (I like having things in my diary, it makes me feel like I still have a life). It would have been so easy (especially when pregnant during the winter months) to stay at home where it’s cosy and warm, but it would have also have been lonely and there is the chance that I might have watched too much daytime TV and gone a little crazy.

It’s for these reasons (and many more) that I think volunteering is a good idea, and I can totally believe it when research shows that volunteering contributes to people having both better mental and physical health.

So I keep on working to get The English Volunteering Project off the ground. And I’m feeling gently optimistic. In five weeks there have been over 1440 hits on the FundedByMe fundraising page for the project and 21,340kr has been donated, and we have four more weeks to go. This means that if we raise another 18,160kr we will reach the 40,000kr goal, after which Internetfonden will provide the remaining 40,000kr – thus enabling us to raise the 80,000kr we need to get the project started.

And I’ve been having various meetings which could lead to interesting things for the project. But I’m trying not to get too excited about these unless something definite happens – it’s far too easy to get excited about something only to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. So you’ll have to wait with me to find out what, if anything, happens next.

 

By Claire Thomas

claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Check back in a few weeks to hear more about Claire’s progress.

Claire Thomas was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Northern Ireland and has lived in Scotland, England, Germany and now Sweden (where she hopes to stay for a good long while). In this blog she shares her experience of setting up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm

If you are interested in the project you can contact Claire by email at claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

To donate to the project go to http://fundedbyme.com/projects/2012/04/the-english-volunteering-project/

Like us on Facebook to follow the project’s progress – go to www.facebook.com/englishvolunteering.

The project is part of Volontärbyrån  www.volontarbyran.org

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences & ideas and hear their stories. If you have something to say or want to share about your Swedish journey, send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.

I sometimes wonder how I ever functioned when I was in my 20s – I feel like I’ve learned and experienced so much since then that, looking back, I feel like I knew nothing (which obviously isn’t true). Not that I feel I know that much now – life seems to be a constant learning experience.

What I’m learning about at the moment is fundraising for non-profit organisations. I’ve done little bits of fundraising in the past, but not that much.

To be honest, I knew it wasn’t easy, and preferred to leave it to people who had established skills in that area. Or that was my excuse anyway. Now I don’t have any excuse… it has to be done.

So I’ve launched the fundraising page for The English Volunteering Project. This in itself wasn’t easy and I laboured long and hard to try to get the text right – enough information to get people interested, not too much to bore them. Finally I had to let go, make it public, and trust that it was good enough to do the job.

In the first week there were over 600 hits on the page, which is, frankly amazing. So there is obviously a great deal of interest in the project. But not so many people have given. I know that with any fundraising campaign the challenge is to turn interest into actual donations, so part of me is not surprised, but another part of me is rather disappointed. A friend has assured me that for the length of time the campaign has been live it is actually doing incredibly well, but that doesn’t stop self doubt creeping in. Maybe the text isn’t right? Maybe I haven’t explained it properly? What else could I have done?

I know that obviously not everyone will support every fundraising campaign they come across – that would be impossible and unaffordable. But that doesn’t stop me wanting everyone to like this project so much, and think that it is so worthwhile that they do give. If everyone who had looked at the page had given 50kr (less than the cost of a coffee and a cake- in Sweden) we would have 30,000kr by now and be well on our way to achieving the money we need to make this project happen.

My challenge is to learn how to maintain people’s interest in the project and to encourage them to give, without hassling people and becoming a bit of a bore on the subject. Not easy.

There is a bit of good news to add to the mix. If we raise at least 40,000kr through the campaign then it is very likely that a grant-making foundation will top up the rest of the money we need to reach our 80,000kr goal. Now, wouldn’t that be nice.

By Claire Thomas

claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Check back in a few weeks to hear more about Claire’s progress.

Claire Thomas was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Northern Ireland and has lived in Scotland, England, Germany and now Sweden (where she hopes to stay for a good long while). In this blog she shares her experience of setting up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm.

If you are interested in the project you can contact Claire by email at claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Like us on Facebook to follow the project’s development – go to ‘The English Volunteering Project in Stockholm’.

The project is part of Volontärbyrån  www.volontarbyran.org

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences & ideas and hear their stories. If you have something to say or want to share about your Swedish journey, send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.

So now we come to the exciting part – the bit where you can get involved with the project and make a real difference. And no, I’m not asking you to become a volunteer. All we need is a little of your money.

And we REALLY need it!

I’m trying to get this project set up as cheaply as possible, but unfortunately it does need some money in order for it to happen. So, before I tell you how much, I want you to consider a few things.

First, imagine how much it might cost to professionally set up a website, with an extensive database behind it. Remember to add on Sweden’s 25% value added tax/MOMS.

Next, think what it would cost to employ a project manager on a half time salary for a year, and again, remember we’re in Sweden and taxes and employers contributions are high.

Do you have a vague figure in your head? Good. This is how much the project could cost.

However, through extensive use of volunteers, the partnership with Volontärbyrån and being very nice to very many people the amount we actually need to make this project happen is 80,000SEK. Hopefully that is considerably less than the first figure you had in your head.

That amount will enable a dedicated English section to be built on the Volontärbyrån website. It will provide advice and support for people interested in volunteering, and more importantly will enable non-profit organisations to upload volunteering vacancies free, and volunteers to search for those vacancies (again for free). And this will be available to English speakers in Sweden indefinitely.

Volunteering vacancies which can be done in English don’t just appear by magic. There will also be a lot of work involved with encouraging and supporting non-profit organisations to make it possible for people to volunteer in English. This too is included in the cost of the project (by using volunteers).

If you think that sounds worthwhile then please go to  http://fundedbyme.com/projects/2012/04/the-english-volunteering-project/ and give what you can. Even the smallest amounts will help (but obviously we’re not going to say no to larger amounts either). And as this is fundraising through social networking, please tell other people about it, including people in other countries, who can also give through this link. I also want to say a big thank you to FundedByMe who have generously agreed to waive their normal 6% administration fee.

And finally, in case you’re thinking “Nah, my little contribution won’t make a difference, I won’t bother” please remember that if we don’t raise the money we need by the middle of June the project will not be able to continue. I am having a baby in August, and if the project hasn’t progressed sufficiently I simply won’t have enough time to keep it going. However, if we have raised the money and got the website developed by August, I will be able to do the necessary work to keep it going.

I’ve done what I can. The English Volunteering Project is now in your hands.

http://fundedbyme.com/projects/2012/04/the-english-volunteering-project/

By Claire Thomas

claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Check back in a few weeks to hear more about Claire’s progress

Claire Thomas was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Northern Ireland and has lived in Scotland, England, Germany and now Sweden (where she hopes to stay for a good long while). In this blog she shares her experience of setting up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm.

If you are interested in the project you can contact Claire by email at claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Like us on Facebook to follow the project’s progress – go to www.facebook.com/englishvolunteering.

The project is part of Volontärbyrån  www.volontarbyran.org

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences & ideas and hear their stories. If you have something to say or want to share about your Swedish journey, send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.

Image by Image by add1Sun via Flickr Creative Commons

 

It’s not often one gets to go to a party with British Royals. Read about Claire’s experience here.

Claire writes: “About a month ago the British Embassy in Stockholm got in touch, asking whether I knew any British people who volunteer in Sweden. They were looking for people to invite to an event, but were very unwilling to say much about the event at all. So I passed on a few names and waited to hear more.

Several weeks later I got an invitation to an evening reception at the British Embassy, where the guests of honour would be Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. I was also asked to be a group leader. What this meant was that I would be introduced by the Ambassador’s wife to the Duchess of Cornwall, and then I in turn would be responsible for introducing Camilla to a number of other people (these kind of events have to be very carefully managed).

This was followed by a couple of days of frantic dress shopping – being 4 months pregnant, none of my existing smart clothes fit me at all. I finally found something that didn’t make me look like a misshapen balloon, and I was ready to meet the royals.

It was a lovely evening in the embassy area opposite Djurgården, and the embassy building itself was beautiful – with fantastic views over the water. About 150 people, both Swedish and British, were gathered to mingle and meet the royal couple, and there was an air of excitement in the building. There were also lots of questions – Does one bow or curtsey? Do you offer to shake their hands? What do you call them?  (Answers are, yes (but discretely), no, wait until they offer their hand, and say ‘Your Royal Highness’ the first time you address them and then after that use ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’.)

The little group of people I was responsible for were all volunteers and had a range of experiences between them – a police volunteer, the secretary of the International Women’s Club, a volunteer in a school, and working with fair trade organisations, to name just a few. And, when the Duchess of Cornwall finally arrived (they were running a little late), she was interested in hearing about everything that people did.

I was impressed with how interested she seemed, and the way every person got a few moments of her undivided attention. We weren’t supposed to meet Prince Charles as well, but he apparently got through his groups more quickly and then moved on to ours. I was thrilled when he said that The English Volunteering Project was ‘obviously a brilliant idea’. He is someone who has worked with a huge number of non-profit organisations, and if he thinks it’s a good idea, I think that’s a great endorsement. Not that I have it in writing, but I will definitely be telling potential funders what he said.

Look out for my next blog (in about 2 weeks) when we’ll be launching a fundraising campaign for The English Volunteering Project. This will be your chance to play a part in making this project happen.

By Claire Thomas

claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Check back in a few weeks to hear more about Claire’s progress.

Claire Thomas was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Northern Ireland and has lived in Scotland, England, Germany and now Sweden (where she hopes to stay for a good long while). In this blog she shares her experience of setting up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm.

If you are interested in the project you can contact Claire by email at claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Like us on Facebook to follow the project’s development – go to ‘The English Volunteering Project in Stockholm’.

The project is part of Volontärbyrån  www.volontarbyran.org

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences & ideas and hear their stories. If you have something to say or want to share about your Swedish journey, send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.

Image by Image by UK in Sweden

As Claire keeps moving the English Speaking Volunteer Project forward, she learns not everyone has the same expectations of a volunteer.

Claire writes: “I recently had to respond to possibly the rudest email I have ever received (and I don’t mean an accidentally opened porn email that my spam folder had missed). It was unnecessarily and inexcusably rude, and amongst other things, accused me of discriminating against a lot of people. All because I had failed to respond to an email within two days.

I spent quite a while trying to work out how to respond. Part of me really wanted to respond in kind, pointing out just how rude the email was and suggesting ways that the person should improve their interpersonal communication style. Another part of me thought it would probably be better just to ignore the email. In the end I went for what, I hope, is the more grown-up response, and sent a friendly email apologising that I hadn’t been able to meet the person’s expectations about response times for emails.

But it led me to think about people’s expectations of non-profit organisations. I’ve worked a lot with non-profits, both in Sweden and in the UK. In fact, I would say that I’ve easily worked with hundreds, covering the whole range of non-profit activity. And one thing I’ve always been very aware of is that the people involved with non-profits are just as human as everyone else. And by that I mean, they are working very hard to do their best, but don’t always manage to achieve it.

It is entirely reasonable for people giving money and/or time to non-profits to expect a decent level of service and efficiency – both in terms of how money is used and the service they receive (whether that is receiving replies to emails or people doing what they say they’ll do). However, people who work in non-profit organisations are often working with very scarce resources to achieve a huge amount and are barely keeping their heads above water financially; which can lead to them having to focus on some things at the expense of others. I can promise you that they would like to be able to do everything perfectly, but often have to accept what appears to be second best because that is all that is realistically possible. This enables the good work of the organisation to take place, but means that it might take a little longer to respond to emails.

We need the kind of people who see a problem and do something about it. The world would be a much worse place without them. But people with the passion to change the world are not always the most organised of people, and often need someone alongside them who’s good at organising things and doing the accounts. Very few of us are good at everything and it is important to recognise our weaknesses as well as our strengths, and to find ways to compensate for those weaknesses.

Next time you have dealings with a non-profit organisation, particularly if it’s a small one, please be patient. Don’t give up if you don’t hear back from them immediately – be persistent, but also be understanding if there is nothing they can do to help. There is only so much that one individual or organisation can do, no matter how passionate or what size they are.”

By Claire Thomas

claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Check back in a few weeks to hear more about Claire’s progress.

Claire Thomas was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Northern Ireland and has lived in Scotland, England, Germany and now Sweden (where she hopes to stay for a good long while). In this blog she shares her experience of setting up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm.

If you are interested in the project you can contact Claire by email at claire.thomas@volontarbyran.org

Like us on Facebook to follow the project’s development – go to ‘The English Volunteering Project in Stockholm’.

The project is part of Volontärbyrån  www.volontarbyran.org

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences & ideas and hear their stories. If you have something to say or want to share about your Swedish journey, send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.

 

Image by Twice Pics licensed under Creative Commons