The european migration crisis is worse then ever and with a lot of countries closing borders, many running for their lives get a door shut in their face. Sweden has recently introduced border controls starting a huge debate on the increasingly frostier subject. For the survivors managing to get a foot in, a new struggle begins, adapting and getting accepted in a new country. Enter, Therese Karlberg, a passionate woman standing up for the refugees and helping them doing just that.
She has been involved in amnesty for years, studied International Social Science and recieved an internship in Washington DC. Therese smiles as we set up the skype settings and tells me about her day. The small talk does not last long as we both know what subject most deservs our time.
Working directly with people is something Therese values "In school studying, the students would wamp up each other with visions" she says with a smile and explains that some talked about becoming dimplomats and world leaders and that it was hard not to get carried away.
However Therese stayed close to home "Working at a local level was a blessing in disguise since I realized that working in an office turing papers was not for me. I prefeer seeing the difference I´m making first hand." The connection to the refugees she helps is strong and the main reward is all the love she gets in return. "Those I have helped are incredibly thankful and I get a lot of hugs whenever we meet." What seems to exite her the most is seeing progress and sharing the joy of their journeys.
She has always been very engaged and is responsible of arranging a yearly event where politicians and imigrant youth meet. One participant described it this way:
" We started with a fun speed dating session in which we had the opportunity to talk about our favorite food, our dream trip or the most important person for us. After that, we started different activities: dance, painting, sports and of course fika. It was so funny to see how youngsters and politicians danced together to the rhythm of ”Because I’m happy”, and to see how they discussed and came to an agreement before painting their ideal cities on canvases. The activities were designed in order for all the participants, youngsters and politicians alike, to take an active part in them under the same rules and conditions."
"Politicians are also people and they can be fun. "
Therese explains how refugees often associate politicians with danger and therefore debating in a cold conference hall would feel stiff and akward. A gathering with playful activities turned out to be the perfect way for both parties to really get to know each other. It also helped lessen the language barriers, which could have been more of a difficulty as some of the participants had only been in Sweden for three months.
At events she has attended regarding the issue she has found a missing component, the refugees.
Instead of having white male Torgny, 45, there talking about the needs of the refugees Therese wonder why the individuals who have fled are not invited into the discussion. It is after all a discussion trying to solve a crisis for those fleeing.
Helping does not have to be hard and it all starts with understanding the need. "Everyone has a lot to say about imgirants but almost no one talks to them" Therese says, firmly stating that daring to approach refugees and actually listen is an important first step. As we talk futher I can feel her frustration "Many tell me that it is horrible what is happending but still so many do nothing to help make these people feel welcome." She explains how just looking them in the eyes makes a world of diffrence and continues that "we as humans have a responsibility to see each other."
As the world is slowly catching onto her way of thinking about the issue, exciting things are on the horizon for Therese. She has recieved a scholarship to coach young entrepreneurs wanting to make a change, something she describes as her dream job. So if you live in Sweden and want to get involved with/ start a humanitarian project do not miss this opportunity of valuable guidence. Go visit SIP and play an active part in the improvement of the quality of life for people who have been forced to leave everything behind for a new and strange world. We here at InspirNation are looking forward to seeing all your wonderfully creative ways of doing just that.