Helping through friendship is something that volunteer Therese Romijn believes in. She is volunteering for Venligboerne in Allerød and has dedicated her time to help and welcome newcomers into the Danish community.
Kindness, curiosity and respect are some of the most important values in Venligboerne. Therese Romijn, that has been working in center Sandholm the past five years, believes that the best way to welcome the refugees is to be kind and become friends with the them. She is from the Netherlands and has been in Denmark for more than 30 years with her Danish husband and now she is a volunteer in Venligboerne in Allerød.
– Venligboerne is a community movement dedicated to build bridges between people since june 2013. One of their main ambitions is to help and meet refugees with kindness – they believe that the meeting of new and longstanding residents of Denmark can bring added joy and insight into all of our lives.
– The Venligboerne movement began in the Danish town of Hjørring and was founded by Merete Bonde Pilgaard. The movement is not affiliated with any political party.
What are Venligboerne volunteers and what are they doing?
“We volunteers try to help newcomers to our municipality to offer the kind of help they need – for example household things, shoes, clothes, and also to show them places like the hospital, grocery stores and so on”, Therese Romijn says.
Therese Romijn points out: “Our Facebook page is very helpful for people to communicate easily about these everyday things. I know a Syrian man who lived in Hjørring camp and moved to the municipality of Allerød when he got positive (asylum). He wrote on our Facebook page and I contacted him and told him that I would wait for him in Allerød the day he moved to take him to the right place. It makes me and other people happy when we find a person who wants to help. That is why I joined the group, to help.”
What kind of activities do you do with refugees?
“We get a place in the library where we meet once a week. We have more than 160 refugees who moved to Allerød all the way from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria and so on. Everyone brings cake, makes coffee and tea and we listen to music and share background stories. We make friends with Danish people and we also ask them what kind of help they need”, Therese Romijn says.
She continues: “The Allerød Venligboerne opened in January 2016, and now we are 825 members in this Facebook group. It is very important for the refugees to meet Danish people and to integrate with the Danish culture because it makes it more easy to learn Danish. Now we are looking for a new place for our meetings because we are not allowed to use the library for that anymore”.
How does the community welcome the people who live in camps?
“We are welcoming everyone we meet in real life or on our Facebook page. I know about Sandholm because I worked there, and I have met very good people for the past five years during my time there. But other people who don’t know the asylum seekers from the camps like I do get afraid of them because of the horrible news about them on TV. So they mostly think about helping people who are already accepted into Denmark”, Therese Romijn says.