Chalmers Buddy Program does integration with friendship and cinnamon buns

Being new in a foreign country without a social safety net is difficult – many tend to feel isolated. To help newly arrived peace seekers find friends and establish contacts, Chalmers Students for Sustainability (CSS) has started The Buddy Program.
Through Innovation for Integration, Chalmers Students for Sustainability (CSS) had initiated The Buddy Program to create a meeting place for newly arrived peace seekers and students. Through informal ambassadors with connections to both Chalmers and groups of people who have recently fled Syria, and other regions, The Buddy Program has gathered a group of curious participants to introduce to student volunteers. The initiative is currently in its pilot phase and includes roughly 30 people. They consist of students from Chalmers and Göteborgs Universitet and people who are either seeking asylum in Sweden or have recently been granted their residence permits.

Wants to see more of Gothenburg

The premiere Buddy Program event was held on October 30th, and according to Vaneni Bilemdigan, who came to Sweden from Syria last year, it was a great success.
“It was more fun than I expected, actually! I feared it was going to be a bit awkward with lots of small talk about school and learning Swedish and stuff like that. But we had a blast – most of us stuck around for several hours longer than planned.”
Vaneni Bilemdgian heard about the initiative via a friend she sings along side with in the International Choir. Vaneni is 20 years old, lives with her family in Kungsbacka and goes to Aranäsgymnasiet. She hopes the Buddy Program will prove to be an opportunity for her to se more of the city.
“Most days I just go to and from school in Kungsbacka so I haven’t seen much of Gothenburg. On my way to the buddy-event I passed a bunch of large streets full of shops. Somebody needs to show me how to find my way there!”

Hoping to scale things up 

CSS arranged a Swedish cinnamon bun bake-off as the activity for their first Buddy event, and supplied the dough and the locale. It’s yet to be decided what the future events are going to include. The idea is that participants will meet more frequently and informally in smaller groups, to just hang out and get to know each other, and that the whole gang will get together about once a month for more organized activities, like city walks or cooking.
“We’ll run the pilot project for a few months and then evaluate the initiative. Hopefully we’ll scale things up and continue after that. There’s still room for more people to join!” says one of the organizers Arvid Bjurklint from CSS, who is studying mathematics at Chalmers.

Kristina Meier, volunteer, Arvid Bjurklint from CSS and Vaneni Bilemdgian. Photo: Carolina Svensson 
 Text: Carolina Svensson

Published: Thu 12 Nov 2015. Modified: Fri 20 Jan 2017