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Our First Featured blogger is Claire Thomas. 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.
Hi! I’m Claire. You join me after a year of life in Sweden. You could describe it as a year of foundation building- I’ve learnt a fair amount of Swedish, made some friends, and done all the technical moving-to-a-new-country stuff and a reasonable amount of networking. Now for the next stage…
In the UK I worked with non-profit organisations, providing support and advice on a wide range of subjects to do with management, good practice and governance. I’ve also done a lot of volunteering. So, when I came to Stockholm I started looking for opportunities to volunteer. I have to admit this was only partly out of an altruistic desire to help my fellow human beings. It was also a great way to get me out of the apartment, meet new people, practise my Swedish and gain work experience in Sweden.
What I found was that it’s not as easy to volunteer here as I thought it would be. My lack of Swedish was certainly a drawback, but there were other issues too, not least being that I didn’t know the names of any Swedish non-profit organisations. Volontärbyrån (Stockholm’s centre supporting volunteering) has a great website (www.volontarbyran.org) with lots of volunteering opportunities on it, but only in Swedish (Google Translate is good, but only up to a point). And all the opportunities I found required me to speak Swedish. Occasionally I would talk to someone from a non-profit organisation who would assure me that I could volunteer in English, only to then be told officially that I needed to be able to speak Swedish, or at least do the training in Swedish. Finally, although I consider myself to be reasonably outgoing, I much prefer to make first contact by email. However, almost none of my emails to organisations were ever answered. It was a long and frustrating time before I accepted that picking up the phone to call perfect strangers is not considered to be imposing on them.
In the end I found volunteering opportunities through networking. But it felt like it had been hard work and I wondered whether people who aren’t as familiar with non-profit organisations would be able to do it at all. Then a friend suggested that I start up a project helping other non-Swedish people to find volunteering opportunities. I mulled the idea over for a while before seriously starting to put ideas together over the summer.
And now I start working on the project. I’m not sure what this is going to look like in the end, or even if it will work. But I’m going to do my best to make it a success.
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]
The project is part of Volontärbyrån www.volontarbyran.org