Volunteering in Copenhagen and Århus

There are many opportunities to volunteer your time in Copenhagen, Århus and other parts of the country even if your Danish isn’t great. Plus it is a good way to improve your spoken Danish. I often have clients asking about volunteering options so I thought I’d share a few I am know of, but as usual please do get in touch if you would like me to add others you are aware of.volunteerFirst up, to help you search for your own volunteering options the Danish word for volunteer is Frivillig. Did you know that 43% of the Danish population are involved in voluntary work of some description?

The Red Cross (Røde Kors) is always looking for volunteers in various shapes and forms. Plus most organisations working with refugees are looking for volunteers such as Dansk Flygtningehjælp

The charity supermarket selling out of date (but safe food) called We Food are expanding and are often looking for volunteers in both their stores on Amager and in Nørrebro. Here is also an article about the project.

Settlementet in Vestebro is an amazing community project with many different areas of work. You can register to be a volunteer here. I have written about their work here.

One Bowl, not for profit pay as you feel community kitchen is really interesting and looks for volunteers. It is definitely an international place with volunteers and diners from all around the world. Read more about the project here.

CPH Volunteers is a scheme supported by København Kommune and is a flexible way to volunteer as you sign up and offer your time when you can. The portal Frivillig Job brings together a number of volunteering options across Denmark and lets you match your skills to groups looking for volunteers. Copenhagen Kommune also has a page with a selection of places looking for volunteers (some I have mentioned here but many others). And International House also has a volunteer information page.

Århus Kommune has a whole page on their website with a variety of types of organisations and projects looking for volunteers.

This is just a snap shot of the kinds of places you can volunteer.

Settlementet – supporting the community in Vesterbro since 1921

Yesterday I wrote about the changing face of Vesterbro and the gentrification of the area but it is important to remember that Vesterbro is still an area with socially vulnerable, low-income and also marginalised people no matter how many trendy publications laud it as one of the hippest neighbourhoods in the world.DSC01755

Sidegaden (or Side Street) is an environmental and educational project set up to support the community in Vesterbro. Located in Saxogade (above), the project was started in 1986 before the start of the urban renewal in Vesterbro by Settlementet (more of this organsiation below) and is still in operation and very much-needed today.  It is run by a small number of employees and a lot of volunteers.

There are four main community businesses run by Sidegaden.

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Cafe Sonja is a community cafe that gives work to a variety of people, giving them the chance to use their individual talents and skills to keep the cafe running. The cafe exists to encourage a diverse labour market and aims to give its staff a reason to get up and do something meaningful.  Everyone involved does what they can to run the café. They offer a great selection of healthy and home cooked foods for anyone who want to come into the cafe. They recently added a small playroom area so parents can relax whilst their children play.

Gang i Gaden is a drop-in centre and work community where people can access advice on job training, support one another, take part in computer workshops and undertake odd jobs and maintenance for the other Sidegaden businesses. It also operates a small thrift shop. It is run by Settlementet and supported by Copenhagen Kommune.

There are two shops. The first is Hva’ Så, which is a family shop selling used clothes and toys as well as offering family activities such as baby music, courses and lectures. There is also the opportunity to access advice from health professionals such as midwives and health visitors and get support and advice on things such as breastfeeding, baby sleeping and parenting. There is always coffee and cakes provided by Cafe Sonja here.DSC01756The second shop is Heidi go Bjarne (above) which sells good quality preloved clothes, handmade and redesigned clothes (my son’s current favourite T shirt is from this shop!) and unique interior things. They support many local artists and crafts people and sell things made by people in workshops in Gang i Gaden.DSC01746

All these businesses are run by Settlementet, a community project that aims to help the vulnerable residents of Vesterbro. It has been in existence since 1921 and has been very important the development of housing conditions and working people’s living conditions in Vesterbro. The main location is at Dybbølsgade 41.

Today it  is still a voluntary organization that advocates for socially vulnerable groups and operates a wide range of activities for Vesterbro’s citizens. The Sidegaden project above has motivated and integrated many unemployed people in a number of social enterprises. And the integration project, Project Sultana done a lot of work to integrate women with different ethnic backgrounds. Settlementet also organising many clubs for young and old as well as food clubs for those on low incomes and clubs for both men and women from the local Pakistani community.

The organisation offer confidential advice and support on social and legal issues for people of all ages and situations, psychological support, addiction support and support for those in violent situations.

This is all a fraction of the work Settlementet does.

You can support Settlementet by volunteering or donating money to keep this valuable charity going.

 

Beaches are not just for summer!

It’s been a bit quiet over here and on my social media this last week as we’ve had my mum to stay. My son proclaimed that a visit from his beloved Nanny was better than Christmas! But this morning I dropped her off at the airport and made my way home. Recently I have started to listen to podcasts and find it a great way to effectively use my time when travelling back from dropping my son off at school and the return journey to collect him.

This morning I was listening a podcast by Janet Murray interviewing Natalie Sisson, known as The Suitcase Entrepreneur. A big part of Natalie’s ethos is about finding your freedom. As I was travelling back on the Metro I looked at the wide blue skies over the Øresund and inspired by what I was listening to, and almost without thinking, I hopped off the Metro at Amager Strand and walked along the sea listening to the podcast. My eyes were watering in the freezing wind and my cheeks got very rosy, but by the time I got back on the Metro one stop on, I was feeling inspired and energised (and actually not that cold). IMG_2787One of my favourite things is a windswept beach in the winter. We are so lucky to live so close to the sea and beaches are not just for the summer! It was quiet with a few runners, dog walkers, mums with prams and of course, winter swimmers but an amazing way to spend an hour. The sun had only been up less than an hour but it was great to feel the sun rays after a week of dismal skies and rain. The best remedy to tackle the winter blues as far as I am concerned. IMG_2772 IMG_2773 IMG_2775 IMG_2779 IMG_2781 IMG_2790 IMG_2789

Exploring Østerbro – Tåsinge Plads

Østerbro can sometimes feel a little bland compared to its more lively neighbour, Nørrebro, but as time goes on I am finding little interesting pockets in the area. Tåsinge Plads is one of them. Its regeneration is part of a wider environmental initiative, which I shall write about in more depth next month. IMG_0619 The area used to be all concrete and streets but has now been converted into a community green space. It is part of the Climate Quarter in this area and the first stage of a wider project. The centre of the space uses innovative drainage systems to draw the water from cloud bursts away from the surrounding residential area. Before the area was changed there was a community consultation period, where all the proposals were presented and this created a good dialogue with the locals. It has now become a welcome open space that is used by many different sectors of the community, not just young people.IMG_0621

Solgårdens Mejeri, named after the former brewery in this area, is a lovely little Ricco’s cafe situated right on the open space and there is also a pizza takeaway for food to enjoy out in the square.IMG_0622 It’s an interesting little space in a very residential area which for sometime has been somewhat forgotten, and worth venturing into outer Østerbro for.IMG_0623

Zusa – what’s it all about?

There is a big difference between graffiti and street art. Mindless graffiti can be offensive, disrespectful and just plain ugly. Having lived in Berlin where the ugly, offensive side of graffiti assaults the eye regularly (although many people try to argue that this is a big part of the personality of the city) I do like that the more mindless graffiti is cleaned up here.

Street art on the other hand can brighten up an area, be interesting and thought provoking. You can spot a number of large scale murals painted around the city on the blank end of apartment buildings that are part of the fabric of the area. The hoardings around the metro building sites also showcase street artists. And there are ad hoc bright spots that tread a fine line between graffiti and street art. There are political graffiti artists in the city such as Spyo and roadwork sculptor Bert, who also have something positive to add to the urban landscape. The graffiti and street art in Christiania seems to fit. So does yarn bombing and perler bombing (my phrase for Hama bead art) and other fun installations that pop up around the city.

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There is also something quite unique to be spotted in Copenhagen. It is four letters, ZUSA, that pops up high on the sides of buildings all around the city. The letter are all brightly decorated and no set the same. Where do they come from and what does it mean? I started following Zusa Street on Facebook but apart from a great selection of photos, I didn’t learn much more. I googled it and not a lot came up so I left my research for a while, until recently when a documentary about the man behind Zusa was premiered in January.

The letters, which mean Zusammen or together in German, are created and painted by the street artist legend, Anders Thordal, who was part of the Copenhagen street art movement in the 1980’s and trained at Denmark Design School, before he got MS at the age of 28 and became wheelchair bound. He is dependent on a band of helpers who, once he has created the large letters, go with him to the selected urban sites and erect the art. It is an amazing story of how his illness has not stopped his creativity. The documentary was made by director, Tao Nørager, who took the role as Thordal’s career to film his work. This is an interesting article about Thordal’s work (in Danish).

The letters have always fascinated me and I enjoy them even more knowing the story behind them. The documentary, Zusa Street, will be shown later this year on DR K.

Photo credit.

Thoughts on cycle helmets

It isn’t the law here in Denmark to wear cycle helmets and whenever it is mooted it never seems to happen. I wonder if it is because we have a sense of security by using a lot of dedicated cycle paths rather than having to weave around car traffic or the awareness of car drivers to the large cycling population. Maybe it’s a vanity thing. Whatever it is, I see very few cyclists wearing helmets beyond the more sporty ones on my commute to my son’s school or any other time of the day for that matter. In fact recent figures suggest that only 17% of cyclists in Copenhagen wear helmets. Some very interesting arguments are raised here.

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There are a lot of arguments that suggest studies have over estimated the safety benefits of cycle helmets. Also many cycle accident related injuries are similar to mine and not head injuries. When I was a teenager I worked in Halfords selling, amongst other exciting items, cycle helmets. The biggest thing we were taught in our training was that unless a helmet is worn correctly it is useless. In the UK you can regularly see cyclists wearing helmets pushed back on their heads, exposing their forehead, which according to what I was taught renders them useless.

However after smashing my elbow up and becoming the Bionic Woman last month, I am aware that I could have smashed up my head instead. And that is something of a sobering thought.

I am still, however, unsure about wearing one. I am not sure how I will feel once I get back on a bike in a few months – whether the feeling of security will take time to return. I am also not sure if the next time I mount my bike I shall be wearing a helmet. I am not sure if it will make a difference in an accident, research suggests not in the kind of cycling environment I exist in but nevertheless I am giving it careful thought.

I am interested in your views – if you cycle here (or anywhere else for that matter) do you wear a cycle helmet?