Throughout the last year we’ve heard about the massive flow of refugees fleeing to Europe. What happens when they arrive? Integration to a new culture takes time and there are many obstacles that must be overcome. It takes up to a year or even longer to get a decision on your asylum application. For many refugees this waiting time in combination with the uncertainty and inactivity is really tough. Per Asp, a farmer from a small village called Junsele, which is up in the far north of Sweden, saw the newly arrived refugees from Syria walking around in his village with nothing to do.
Per describes himself as an easy-going person who always wants to have something to do. One of his hobbies is to go fishing and he says: ”Fishing means freedom to me. Being in the nature makes me think about different things. I can be myself, get rid of negative thoughts and clear my head”. He wanted to give and share this feeling with the refugees and decided to teach them ice fishing.
He thought 5 or 6 persons to follow him and contacted the coordinator at the refugee facility to find out how many persons would be interested. It turned out to be nearly 50 – the youngest being four and the oldest 65 years old.
Not only did Per have to teach how to fish, organize fishing equipment and show them how to put it together. He also had to organize logistics, i.e. how to get 46 persons out on the lake Betarsjön and make sure that they all had proper clothing. Thanks to his friend Patrick Ahlberg, who owns the company ”Wild West Adventurer”, they could easily take everyone with several snowmobiles to the lake and that ride became a highlight in itself.
Together with a local association in the village, Per arranged that villagers came and donated winter clothing at a community house. The refugees then came and tried and picked the clothing. This was also a good opportunity for the locals to meet the refugees and many new connections were made and barriers torn down.
The actual fishing event lasted a whole day and was accompanied with many a laughter, dance and touching moments. Many stated “this is the best that ever happened to me”. The event had a great impact on how the refugees were accepted and integrated in the little village and helped them to learn the language much faster.
The planning of the event got attention in newspapers, social media and radio and was filmed and later broadcasted in TV. Per was asked to held presentations about the event and write guest blog posts for several organizations. He also got a lot of feedback via mail, telephone and social media from all over Sweden. The event inspired many others to copy his idea. He says: “I did not realize that this would turn out to be so big. I just did it for the pure joy of fishing and helping others”. He continues, “The 250 kronor (approx. 30 dollars) were well spent money”.
For me this is an evidence that it does not require a huge effort and organization to make a difference in people’s lives and give them new perspectives. If you know someone like Per, please share it with me on twitter @Do_Deeds or leave a comment below.