Integration and exercise when mothers walk
Little Adam is just over a year old. He sits in his cart and points at a couple of dandelions that grow next to the gravel road.
– Adam loves flowers, says his mother Elizabeta Papuleva as she bends down to pick a bunch for her son.
Adam accepts the flowers but immediately gives them back. He smiles when he gets to give them away.
– He is a little charmer, says Elizabeta Papuleva and laughs.
We walk around Växjösjön. The sun shines and it is warm, even if it’s windier than usual.
– This is the first time I go on the strolling walks because I didn’t know it existed before. It is easy for me and Adam to get stuck at home, even though we of course go to the playground and meet other children.
The stroller walks, which is part of the project "Promenera för att integrera", is governed by the Institute for Local and Regional Democracy. Project leader is Aida Baxholm.
– The project was started in 2017 when my former colleague got the idea of bringing together newly-arrived and Swedish mothers and fathers through strollers. During the spring of 2018, the project took a break, but we started again in April this year. So now we are starting from scratch, says Aida Baxholm.
The Institute for Local and Regional Democracy handles the project for Växjö municipality. The project is financed by development funds to strengthen the establishment of newly arrivals, and is applied through the County Administrative Board.
– The idea is to create an environment where people from different backgrounds can meet up. It can be difficult for newly arrivals to get in touch with already integrated people and the walks become a way to unite around something that they have in common. Walking with the stroller and talking to others is an easy way to establish a contact.
The walks take place twice a week. On Wednesdays, the group walks around Växjösjön and on Thursdays in Araby.
– In addition to the walks, I hope that we can have some different activities afterwards. Maybe a field trip or just a picnic, says Aida Baxholm.
– Maybe we can play football? Adam thinks it is very fun to play football, Elizabeta Papuleva replies.
Elizabeta Papuleva came to Sweden from Macedonia three and a half years ago. She and her husband have lived in Växjö ever since.
– I am glad that there are so many activities here in Växjö. It is difficult to find friends in Sweden but it has become easier since Adam came. We have got friends through various activities.
For the time being, the stroller walks are for mothers but according to Aida Baxholm there are plans to start up a walk for dads as well.
– We have had discussions about whether we should have mixed groups with both mothers and fathers or not, but we have decided to divide the groups. Right now, only moms are walking, but we are going to try to get a dad group too, because it is a bunch of dads who have shown interest. Siblings may of course also come along as long as they want to walk.
Who comes here and takes part in the walk?
– We have a mixture of both newly arrived, people with immigrant backgrounds who have been here in Sweden for a long time and people with Swedish backgrounds. It feels good. The hardest part has been to start it up again after the break and to find days and times that suits everyone.
When the project started up again in April, not many people knew about it.
– In the beginning not lot of people showed up. I waited by the lake and in Araby but no one came. But now it is starting to take off and, at most, we have been about ten people.
How long will the project last?
– The project will end in October, but hopefully it will continue in some way, mothers and fathers can continue to go to our Facebook group "Promenera för att integrera" where we write when all of the walks take place. There are always new participants as the children grow up and start preschool. Hopefully we will walk every week even during the summer. I have a holiday but then maybe there are group leaders who can keep up the walks. The idea is not that I as a project manager should go on each walk but instead in the long term the mothers and fathers will find themselves here walking. They will hopefully become friends and meet by themselves.