Swedish Scouts welcome refugee children with open arms
Imagine being forced to leave everything behind and embark on a treacherous journey to flee war and violence, to a foreign land where you will start over – if you get there. It’s daunting, even for adults, to say the least for young people left to fend for themselves.
Fortunately, Scouterna, the Swedish National Scout Organization decided to lend a hand to the integration process by helping refugee children to belong, starting with the Scout groups.
Through its ‘Scouting and Guiding with refugee youth’ project, hundreds or possibly thousands of young people have been feeling at home, thanks to opportunities to join fun, safe and empowering Scouting activities. They are also provided with basic information on Scouting, Scout wear, scarfs, food and camp supplies.
‘I was not a Scout growing up – it is something completely new to me. I became a Scout because I needed the community. I came to Sweden all alone. And I got community in Scouting.’ – Adiba, 17
Additionally, the ‘Newly Arrived in Sweden’ activity pack, which is available in seven languages, is helping Scouts and adult volunteers from at least 60 Scout groups in the country to better practise and promote diversity and inclusion.
The pack contains a guide on how to work with refugee children, reading materials from major international non-governmental youth organisations, suggested activities and commonly asked questions regarding Scouting with refugee children. The project is also supported by refugee Scout leaders and Scouts who are eager to continue Scouting in their new communities.
‘Scouting is important for us. We were not allowed to join extracurricular activities at school, so we did not have anything else to do at our spare time.’ – Amir, 12
Their effort is starting to bear fruit. By experiencing Scouting with the support of volunteers and international organisations like the Red Cross or Save the Children, the newcomers are beginning to connect with each other and with the locals as they share their knowledge and experiences, allowing them to open up and adapt to their new Scout group, and ultimately, their new home.
‘I was a Scout in Syria but I don’t know why. When we came to Sweden we were refugees. It felt like we had a frame with each other, to take care of each other and that we were all Scouts. When I joined the unit, I started from zero. Together we grew. Now it feels like I have been given the opportunity to show myself and take the space I need. The unit is the safe environment that is needed for us to develop.’ – Diana, 18
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