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Integration by becoming a member of a club or an association

Umeå has discovered the sort of difficulties immigrants experience when trying to become a member of a local club or association. Among other things, it is due to the fact that people doubt their language abilities, that they feel they are not good enough to participate, or they simply do not know how to go about it. Therefore, the Integration Network in Umeå along with several other organizations has started a project “In i Umeå” (Into Umeå) in order to make it easier for newly arrived immigrants and refugees to become involved in community activities.

 

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Caption: Into Umeå – a platform for integration via clubs and associations. Photo: In i Umeå

- We see clubs and associations as a major resource and an important part of the community, says project worker, Somayeh Bozaghian.

The project is owned by the Municipality of Umeå, and is run by Umeå Fritid. The initiative has two target groups, newly arrived immigrants and refugees, and those who are already active and involved with a local club or association.

700 clubs and associations in the municipality

There are around 700 clubs and associations in the municipality that are involved in a diverse selection of activities and areas, which is why those who are working in the project are of the opinion that it could serve as a successful platform to interact.

To reach out to newly arrived immigrants, the project team at the SFI school (Swedish for Immigrants) and the IVIK programme (introductory course for newly arrived youths) provides information about what sort of clubs and associations there are available and how you can become active.

All clubs and associations in the municipality of Umeå have been informed about the project and have been invited to various meetings. The project team organizes continuous training courses about how to make contact and invite new members to club activities, and how to operate as a contact person. The project group also provides follow-up support and acts as a sounding board for the clubs and associations during the recruitment process.

- Through friendly and enjoyable meetings, we believe that the newly arrived immigrants will be able to find out more about the clubs and associations in Umeå. That is why “testing an activity” is a method that is effective and easy for many people to grasp, says Somayeh Bozaghian

Organized inspiration meetings

The project has organized several Activity Days and an Into Umeå cafe; along with meeting places for those already active and newly arrived adults and youths. 

The Activity Days have proved to be of greater importance and have very much been about try-it-yourself activities in which various clubs and associations have been able to demonstrate the sort of things they are involved in and to establish new contacts.

The In to Umeå cafe is a relaxed meeting place in which club and association members are invited to either the SFI school or IVIK to mingle, have a cup of coffee and market their organisations.

- It is a good opportunity for adults or youths who are interested in coming into contact with clubs to ask questions, says Somayeh Bozaghian.

The project has been successful and both target groups have shown an interest in the project, but it has been noticed that there is a need for follow-up work in order to maintain the newly created contacts between the target groups. The project will continue with its work of informing and helping to develop contacts between the target groups, and by following up the newly created contacts.

The training of certified club representatives may create opportunities to establish new contacts. A club representative is responsible for welcoming and introducing new members to a club or an association. The format is that each club needs at least one person to assume that little bit of extra responsibility to get members to come and to want to remain.

- We regard this as the starting point to further good relationships with the clubs and associations, says Somayeh Bozaghian.