– At SGN I can make a difference for people who are in a real tough situation, Sofie says.
It’s been almost a year since Sofie graduated from the International Programme in Politics and Economics (IPPE) at University West. Since February of this year, she’s been employed by Support Group Network, an organization that works with facilitating integration and inclusion of asylum seekers and individuals who have just arrived in Sweden.
– As a child I dreamt of being a volunteer, but one with a salary! My goal has always been to ensure that people feel included in society and have the same rights and opportunities in life. When Mr. Per Assmo from University West visited my high school to talk about the IPPE programme it felt like a natural choice for me.
– I was introduced to SGN in Vänersborg while doing a work-integrated internship at Save The Children. I was impressed by their work and realized that what they do means so much to people waiting for a decision about their future. I saw an opportunity for me to really make a difference.
As operations development officer, Sofie has several different tasks. Besides being responsible for activities that give those who are new in Sweden necessary knowledge and information, she writes reports, applies for project funding and makes sure the word gets out about the work that SGN does. She also loves networking with others, a vital skill to have at SGN as the organization works actively with other societal actors. For example, since 2017 SGN collaborates with University West regarding sustainable social development.
– University West is an important partner for us. They provide valuable knowledge exchange in many ways. They provide internships, open seminars and courses for asylum seekers. They also help us with validation of prior learning. The University is really passionate about and involved in these issues.
Since many “new Swedes” want to start their own business, SGN takes part in the Orbus project. The project assists people with everything from business counselling and Swedish tax law to informing about Swedish business culture. The goal is to create sustainable and successful businesses and give new Swedes the best possible opportunity to start their own companies.
– Many of them have owned companies back home, and it’s important to build on their entrepreneurship and drive. But running a business in Sweden can be quite different, so we want them to have the right knowledge and skills right from the get-go.
Sofie feels that the IPPE programme has given her many skills and tools to help her succeed at her new job.
– I’ve studied topics like identity, citizenship and integration from an international perspective. The students enrolled in the IPPE programme also learn how to manage an organization. These are skills I use everyday at SGN.
Besides being her very first job, Sofie also sees another challenge ahead of her.
– I have no experience that can compare to what many of these people have gone through. In order to represent them properly and respectfully, it’s crucial for me to do what I can to understand their situation.
Read more about the Vänersborg Intercultural Centre that was opened by Support Group Network on May 3 (in Swedish)
Text and photo: Christina Axelsson/Stefan Kudryk