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Refugees Friends in Roskilde

“If you help a few that will make a small difference, if everybody help a few that will make a big difference”

Roskilde Refugees Friends is a network of residents in Roskilde. The network counts around 200 members and is still growing. The network helps to create some small, positive experiences in the daily lives of the refugees living in the temporary asylum center in Sct. Hans.

By: Houda

Creation of the group
The group was created by some people around the area. They decided that they wanted to have a group to be able to help refugees when they were arriving in the camp of Roskilde, which used to be an old Sct. Hans hospital.
So they contacted organizations in the neighborhood, like people living in the area and all kinds of neighbor organizations. Then they started to form a group.

In the beginning the group was not supported financially by anyone. It did not have much money to do things, but then they got 25 thousand kr. from the fund of Roskilde Festival. And they got free access to the Cathedrals and museums in Roskilde. Once when they did an arrangement with “Sagafjord”, which was a trip they did in a historic floating restaurant on Roskilde Fjord. The arrangement did not cost anything – the owners of “Sagafjord” sponsored it, and Arriva sponsored the busses.

Hanne Tang is a member of this group. She works as a volunteer mainly with people she meets in the camp of Roskilde, she used to be a teacher, but now she is retired, still teaching though.

Picture text: Members of Refugees Friends of Roskilde, including Hanne playing language games with refugees.

What made you join this group?
“Mainly we wanted to create this group because we wanted to make the refugees feel welcomed in the area when they arrived despite their tragic background. We wanted to create activities that could might make their time at the asylum center a bit less difficult.
So I wanted to do all these things, I wanted to be a part of that.”

Can anybody join the group?
“Yes, anybody can join the group, but mostly people from Roskilde. It sort of suppose to be a neighboring group with people living close to the camp who can easily come down there and take part in the activities. We also invite people home if they get in a good connection with the members of the group, and they can ask them to come for a cup of coffee or whatever.”

What do you think about refugees in general?
“I think it is a very bad situation for anybody to be in – that you have to leave your home country and not to be a tourist. I mean, the way these people must leave their country is terrible, and their whole life is shattered.
So I think it is a horrible situation, and that we should give as much help as we can.”

How do you help refugees?
“Well, we do quite diferent things with refugees. We have walks in the neighborhood and in the city of Roskilde, we arrange a language cafe where we can come and talk to people four days in the week, there is a bicycle repair workshop where people can come and repair their bikes, or buy them for a cheap price, and there is an outlet where they can buy cloths for a rather fair price, I would say.
We had this trip with “Sagafjord”, it was quite an event. We have had the petanque where we have been playing petanque in the yard.
Now we are having this round where we go cook and eat together in the kitchens of the camps. We also havee sport clubs, cultural events, dance and music arrangements on Sundays and lots of other different activities.”

Do you think you are making a difference?
“I hope so because that is why I am doing it. And yes I actually think I can help people with a lot of things. I can not make a big difference in the unhappy situation that a lot of people are in, but I can help out in the practice qualities, Danish language and things like that.”

What is your goal ?
“My goal is to try to help as many people as possible. I mean if you can only help like one or two persons then that makes a difference in these two peoples lives.
It is not good thinking that there are eight million Syrians out there, but I can not do much about that. But I can help a few, which makes a difference for them, and if everybody helps a few it makes a big difference.”

What is your message to other people?
“My message is that they do not know what they are missing. I have been here for seven months now, and it has totally changed my life.
I meet so many nice people and I have got some good friends – some even cooked and made cakes for me on my birthday.
So it is a very good relationships. It is also hard sometimes because all the problems the refugees have you somehow get to carry on your shoulders as well. I would not have missed it.”

Mingyu Hu is one of many refugees who got so much help from the members of this group

How did they help you?
They started to help us six months after we came here with language practising at the very beginning. After we got familiar with each other, they invited us to their home sharing meals especially traditional Danish food. This helped my son very much. Because for adults it is hard to get used to a new environments, but for children it is easy. It was a good chance for him to feel the local and traditional Danish family atmosphere. Most people in the group are retired people, and their children and grandchildren can play games with my son because they are at the same age. We don’t feel any racism with them, we don’t feel any differentiation. We were invited as their guests – we had meals together, we talked, and we had a very harmonious relation.
We have been to their Danish language class for almost six months and we don’t want to be absent for any of it. We established a friendship with the teachers.

Is it helpful for your integration into danish society?
They took us to visit the museums, introduced the history and invited us to some traditional festivals.
This is not something skilful you can use at once, but something that will help you integrate into Danish society gradually. You don’t feel your identity as an asylum seeker or refugee here. You feel you are a citizen here, and that you are capable of having the same life here.

Is it helpful for your integration?
Yes, it is. They helped us with language skills, listening and speaking. You know that this is something basic and important when you want to integrate. Teachers from the group never missed their classes. They came on time and made class effective. Whenever there was a teacher who could not attend the class, some others would take the class instead.

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