8 years for kids by volunteering in Asylum seeker center
The very first time I met with Henrik Buus by chance. He was going to Copenhagen and took me, my friend and one stranger to Copenhagen too. After 2 hours of sleeping in the car we started to talk and he mentioned in passing that he was a volunteer at an asylum seeker center, but I asked nothing more about it. And that was all for that day, we said goodbye. However, the next day I realized that I missed an incredible change to hear the story. That is why the next day I called for Henrik again – to know his hidden experience. Luckily – I saved his number in my phone.
Henrik Buus was a volunteer under the Red Cross umbrella at Kongelunden asylum center near Copenhagen. Officially, he woks as a Chief Commercial Officer at Paranova Group but also for 8 years he was arranging weekly social activities for young boys from 12 to 18 years old.
“We had an activity in an asylum center every Monday, at 5 o’clock we would show up and pick up the kids. It would typically involve taking the kids somewhere, but not always,” Henrik explained how his regular day in the asylum seeker center looked like.
Around 15 kids and 4 volunteers were doing all the different activities together: playing football, swimming, sometimes cooking, going to a museum or just playing computer games.
“They are so sweet, you have no idea, every Monday, when we came here, they came running out, they were so happy. <… > And they understood that the difference between some people do it because they are paid and people do this activity together because they want to do it, because they are volunteering – there is a lot of power in that fact,” Henrik looked back to his memories
Power of coincidence
Henrik says that there is not one reason why he started to volunteer – for him it is “combination of coincident” and what he “believes in about people and human beings in general.”
When he lived in London and was finishing his residence there, Henrik met his friend for the last time before returning back to Denmark. After the meeting with his friend, by the bus stop Henrik bumped into a 16-year-old kid that, as he saw later, has changed his life.
“He asked me what stars signs I was and I said that I don’t know and I don’t believe in that. But eventually I found out that I was an Aquarius and he said – “me too”, then he asked me what was my birthday and I said 1 in February and he replied – “me too”. <… > He pulled out his passport to me and it was written the day – the 1 of February,” Henrik said about the incredible coincidence. “But then he told me that he has nowhere to go and was alone and very hungry.”
They ate some food together. Before leaving to Denmark Henrik tried to help this kid and let him stay in the same apartment. „But it was just really difficult case because he had some very strange behavior problems, so I could not help this guy and eventually I don’t know what happened to him.”
However, later that incident encouraged Henrik to look how he could contribute to and help other children. He was looking for possibilities and found one on the Red Cross’ website.
“But I also strongly believe that all human beings are the same and we have the same rights“ Henrik said the second reason, that impelled him to became a volunteer. As he said not every kid has the same opportunities as he had and not every family can ensure their children’s well-being.
In 2009 Henrik started to volunteer and little by little it became a wonderful part of Henrik’s life: “It is not just about theoretical things that it would be nice and good thing to do and it would look good on your CV that you did some volunteer work – it is about really enjoying the activity and really enjoying the relationship and interaction with the kids.”
Asylum seeker destiny: different faces
In asylum seekers center people can spend a lot of time just waiting to be accepted as a citizens in the country. Unfortunately, if application is rejected, they have to go back home or country where their fingerprints are left.
During volunteering time Henrik experienced a lot of good stories, but also he said that volunteers have been witnesses of some very sad family destinies, for example, when asylum seekers were sent back home and bad things happened.
He told a story about two brothers from Afghanistan that have been sent back home after spending 5 years in Denmark.
According to Henrik, in the beginning they [brothers] left Afghanistan with their mother because the father was forced into Taliban and has gone. Until now it is unknown whether is the father alive or not. The mother with children moved to a refugee camp in Iran, but living conditions were extremely poor, therefore the mother decided to send two older boys to Europe.
Henrik explains that boys, thought they were going to Norway, but they ended up in Denmark. After spending 5 years in the center these boys become “very Danes”, they started Danish school and language courses.
“The little one was 11 and he was the one that I got quite close to and his older brother was 17, but the Danes authorities said later that not – he was not 17, he was 18.”
Therefore Danish authorities interpreted it not as a case of 2 children coming to Denmark for seeking asylum, but as a case of one adult and one kid – the application was rejected.
“They were sent back to Afghanistan, the country that they have not been to for 8 years and they have absolutely no contacts people and family down there <… > and the little one got killed,” revealed Henrik.
Henrik told that after this incident the older one escaped from Afghanistan and he is now staying in a refugee camp in Greece. Henrik is still in touch with him.
“After that I started saying for the new volunteers that it is a wonderful activity and it gives you so much back, but I always also encourage them to think a little bit how you are going to handle, where are going to get support from if something bad happens to the kids that you have become close to,” Henrik summarized his experience.
If you come to Denmark you must accept democracy
Talking about refugees’ integration in Denmark’s society, Henrik believes that both sides: asylum seekers and Danes authorities have to put an effort in. As he says, a lot of incoming families are doing so well and making an effort, they “are really taking in the challenge of learning the language and understanding the culture”, but at the same time some families don’t.
“Some families are not open enough and not working on understanding the culture that are really different culture. We have democracy, we have freedom of speech, and we have equal rights, so we cannot have a situation as a women are less worthy than men.” Henrik believes that immigrants have to be prepared for these reference rules in Denmark.
On Danish authorities’ side and media prospective Henrik sees the tendency to concentrate on small problems, but not to see “big picture” of the situation.
But finally “I would say that the one of the greatest things about being a volunteer is that you get to talk about it, to understand and maybe broaden your mind. And also a lot of questions are asked by the refugees,” says Henrik and adds that sometimes refugees want to do the right things but maybe they don’t know how to do it and Danes need to help them.
Target audience: This article is written for an audience that is interested in personal experience related with global issues as a refugee crisis and how ordinary people see that problem . The article could be published at https://nanook.lt/