Claire Thomas shares her experience of how she has begun working with Volontärbyrån, Sweden’s Volunteer Organization, to set-up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm.
It was clear to me that there was a need for opportunities for people to volunteer in English. The next step was to work out the best way to facilitate this happening, as it obviously wasn’t going to happen on its own. I had come across Volontärbyrån when I was first networking in Sweden and liked what they were doing. They have a website which non-profit organisations use to publicise their volunteering needs. People who are interested in volunteering look at the opportunities available and respond to any organisations who they would like to volunteer with. Individuals can also sign up to receive email updates if the kind of volunteering opportunities in which they are interested become available. However, it’s all in Swedish.
I am someone who likes to work in partnership with other people, rather than setting up something new on my own – I think it often uses scarce resources more carefully, builds on existing expertise and knowledge and results in something longer lasting and more sustainable. So I approached Volontärbyrån to see whether they would be interested in the idea of me developing an English language side to their existing work. They were, and asked me to submit a proposal outlining my ideas in more detail.
Writing the proposal was a great opportunity for me to draw my thoughts together on the project and do some really interesting research on the population make-up of Stockholm – for instance, I discovered that more than a fifth of people in Stockholm were born outside Sweden. I also had to think about what volunteering means in different countries and examine the advantages of volunteering in order to build a case for why it was important for English speakers to be able to volunteer. In particular I tried to make sure that the proposal didn’t leave any obvious questions unanswered, such as, what would happen to the project if I had to return to the United Kingdom.
Then I submitted the proposal and tried to wait patiently for the response.
During this process I discovered another advantage of volunteering. Earlier in the year I had done some research on philanthropy for a think tank called Sector3, which works to raise awareness of and knowledge about civil society and the issues it faces (www.sektor3.se). Details of this were on my CV and Volontärbyrån asked Sektor3 for a reference. They were obviously happy with what they heard and with the proposal as, without meeting me, they agreed that I should start working on the volunteering project to try and make it happen.
We met to talk details, and now we have a plan. I am working (voluntarily initially) 3 days a week based at Volontärbyrån, with my initial focus on fundraising to meet the costs of the project.
I have to admit that the idea of fundraising in the UK would scare me. Trying to do it in a country I’m not terribly familiar with is definitely daunting. But I believe that this is something worth doing, so, here we go.
By Claire Thomas
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 [email protected]
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