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Hej främling!

Hej främling! is a Swedish non-governmental organization offering health boosting activities free of charge and open for everyone. The organization was founded in 2013 and has developed an integration method that thousands of refugees and local citizens have taken part of throughout the years. The activities are led by volunteers and are mainly culture-, sport- and nature related. Activities like choir singing, football, running, mountain hiking and skiing are very popular and regular initiatives can be found in eight counties around Sweden.

  • To follow and spread knowledge about the UDHR (Universal declaration of human rights)
  • Hosting regular health boosting initiatives, mainly outdoor.
  • Guidance and certifications of new volunteers and local sport- culture- and outdoor clubs to create more safe and open spaces.
  • Share our method and good examples through external communication and workshops.
  • Developing and testing new integration concepts focusing on health.

The problem

People in the outbound of society is often materially supported by the government or municipality. But in terms to grow as an individual and get self sufficient you need a meaningful life. That is often forgotten about in the wheel of bureaucracy. To be a viable individual physical and mental health is key to development. People in our target groups doesn’t always have the knowledge or possibility to access the beautiful surroundings and discover the creativeness of outdoor activities. Lack of network, resources and knowledge then becomes a limit and they get isolated. Isolation or lack of things to do (a meaningful life) often impair the mental health and it becomes a downward spiral.

In our wealthfare system there is today no room for resources that helps people to build meaningful relationships. Nor is there room for help to access necessary outdoor, sport or cultural activities - which is scientifically proven to provide better mental and physical health. For existing initiatives the barrier for established citizens to get engaged is often too high and it intrudes on the integrity too much. The step to invite someone to your home or to go to a specific meeting then becomes an obstacle. Undramatic activities that you usually do - like running, doing yoga, walking your dog - and that would more naturally connect you with other people, have been missing from the range of activities. That leaves us with an unequal chance for those in most need for it to experience all the wonderful things you can do outdoors and the magic of dancing or singing together with other people. 

The project

When we first set our foot on Grytans refugee camp outside Östersund, a winter day in 2013, we discovered that the big group of people, living in the middle of the forest, was totally isolated from the society and the world around them - with nothing to do. From our point of view, they had come to heaven. With the beautiful Swedish forrest all around them, and with so many fun things to do in the snow. We wanted to show them all the things we really loved about Jämtland and teach them what possibilities there is to ski, run, play, bike, walk, pick mushrooms and much more. It all started with skiing lessons for the habitants of the refugee camp. Soon it had extended to other activities. We got help from volunteers and went on mountain trips, played football, started the initiative Inlöparna and the choir the

Rocking pots. In 2015 a non-profit organisation was formed and we could hire our founder Emma Arnesson as Operations manager. We developed our organisational structure and started other initiatives in other parts of Sweden. In 2015 we got nominated to citizens of the year at the “Svenska hjältar” gala arranged by Aftonbladet. The following year a three parted documentary was shot which was launched in 2016 on Swedish television - “Känn dig som hemma”. Hej främling! received The European citizen’s prize 2017 and was a finalist in Nansen refugee award by UNHCR.

Our organisation has developed and today we have activities in 8 different counties in Sweden and employes 16 people.  We have activities such as running classes, mountain trips, skiing lessons, hiking, football, yoga, dancing classes, choir singing, book clubs, winter festivals etc etc.

Results so far

The organisation provides activities in eight different counties in Sweden (Norrbotten, Jämtland, Västernorrland, Dalarna, Stockholm, Örebro, Skåne and Västergötland). During last year we had close to 12 000 participants. We offered 30 recurring activities plus 3 one off activities per week, all year round. We have more than 70 hours of activities every week. Our participants is 50% asylum seekers/newly arrived and 50% established swedes. The participants contains of 70% men and 30% women.

Doing this for more than 5 years we have seen results bigger than we ever could have dreamed of. Participants have stopped eating medicine for depressions when regularly joining choir singing. People have been able to find jobs, internships, housing and good friends as well since the activities brings people together.