Økosamfundet Hallingelilles projekt “Nye rødder” inviterer flygtninge indenfor til en blanding af naturskole og naturterapi. Målet er at hjælpe dem mod et mere bæredygtigt liv – fysisk, følelsesmæssigt, socialt og praktisk.
Artiklen er skrevet til GEN’s nyhedsbrev.
About embracing refugees in an ecovillage setting – exploring ‘new roots’
It’s a beautiful morning in September in Hallingelille Ecovillage, Denmark. The sun lights up the changing colours of the trees, the chicken and the rabbits wander around among us in our Learning Centre area. The pot with mint and water is boiling on the fire, ready for our guests.
Today we receive 8 participants from the nearby Asylum Centre and the ones who have visited before greet us with warm hugs and big smiles. Today we have 3 women and 5 men from Somalia, Ethiopia, Irak, Syria, Afghanistan and Iran visiting. Some have been in Denmark for months or years, others have just arrived last week. We gather around the fire and begin our day in nature, with the New Roots project.
New Roots is a nature school and nature therapy project in Hallingelille for asylumseekers, refugees and immigrants, being lead by 2 members of the community, Lotta and Sasja. The purpose is to support the participants towards a more sustainable life; physically, emotionally, socially and practically.
Nature has a healing effect
The group from the nearby Asylum Centre comes twice a week for 4 hours. During those hours we may work in the field, cook from the crops and enjoy a meal, go for walks in the forest or meet and talk to other members of Hallingelille. We spend as much time outdoors as possible. Nature has a tremendous healing effect and is a tranquilizer to anyone, but especially to people who have lived through traumatic experiences, like many of our participants. They have all fled from their home countries, crossed land and sea in dangerous ways, left family members behind hoping for a safe life and a better tomorrow. Many of them have troubles sleeping at night, many of them seem to lack meaning in their lives and often they feel rootless, insecure and alone.
No lions in Denmark
Today we go to the forest to pick plums for the production of a nice jam we will have with bread for lunch. Zahra is a bit nervous at first and asks if we have lions in Denmark. We assure everyone that there are no lions in Denmark and she proceeds, relieved. Mozafar only has his left hand, as he lost the right one in the war against Saddam Hussein. Due to this disability it is often hard for him to work psychically in the field, but he can pick plums just as everyone else. While we walk we share stories, we look at plants, we move and we breathe. We become almost like a little family, for a while. At lunch we sit around the table, talk about the food, make jokes or simply enjoy our food in silence. Some days we go visiting people in Hallingelille in their houses or we invite them to have a potluck lunch with us.
In a way it is very simple. We care and they feel it. And nature does its magic.
Ecovillage is the perfect frame
In general, an ecovillage is the perfect frame for offering nature experiences and a feeling of community to refugees. It’s a safe environment, it’s a caring community and it offers so much inspiration, new contacts, learning and healing possibilities.
Our contact person at Red Cross is a big sympathizer of the project. He drives the group here in the morning and picks them up again in the afternoon, noticing the changes in their mood and energy. He experiences how even the most vulnerable people will still get up in the morning to join the day in the ecovillage. They do not want to miss their days out of the centre.
The feedback we get from the participants is mostly to be found in their warm hugs when they greet us, in their light in their eyes when seeing and meeting their needs during the day. But also on Facebook, when they send us photos, loving messages and share their memories from days spent here.
We could all do this
The local municipalities have to find ways to cater for the refugees, how to integrate them, how to make sure they are becoming part of Denmark, in all its ways. Many of them should listen to our stories and experiences from Hallingelille. But they will only know if we tell them. Therefore, see this as an invitation for everyone who would take upon themselves such a project to conceptualize it and promote it to the municipalities and other stakeholders in charge. Maybe they just needed this good idea to be shared with them, for something to start. It is not so complicated.
In Denmark we have refugee camps spread all over the country – just as we have ecovillages spread out in most of the country. Imagine if all these ecovillages would receive groups of refugees and share time, work and community with them? Imagine if all ecovillages in Europe did that. It would seem quite natural, wouldn’t’ it – that ecovillages, based on all what we stand for, include our newcomers in the communities we share.