South Tahoe High senior spends summer volunteering overseas
South Tahoe High School senior Max Morgan spent a month of his summer volunteering at a refugee center in Sweden. The cause hits close to home for Morgan, whose grandparents and mother were refugees themselves, fleeing Czechoslovakia and heading to Sweden during the Cold War.
In a country of just over 9 million people, Sweden has taken in nearly 400,000 refugees in the past few years. Morgan visits family in the country every summer, and this year decided to volunteer at the Restad Gård Refugee Center in Vänersborg, Sweden, to learn about the challenges refugees face.
“I was talking to this one refugee and he said he got [his papers] done in three months. His friend, who got there at the same time, has been waiting two years,” Morgan said.
During his time at Restad Gård Refugee Center, Morgan took children on field trips to a museum, led them in guided activities and ran a discussion group for adults wishing to practice their English. With dorm buildings, a cafeteria, preschool and indoor gym, the center is the largest in Sweden and houses more than 1,500 refugees, many of which are from Syria.
“That first week I helped run the activity at the museum — I did that twice. That was about it. They don’t have much planned. I did the class and I [threw] the Frisbee around. Most of the time the people just kind of hung out or went into town,” Morgan said.
“There’s not so much that needs to be done, just things that can be done,” Morgan’s mother, Michaela, added.
Morgan spent approximately three to four hours on site each day throughout the month of July, working with people of all ages. He explained that after spending so much time with the refugees, they began to trust him.
“They told me about their culture. It’s a little jarring — I went to Sweden and was learning about another culture in another culture. When I go to Sweden, it’s not the same as America, and when I go to the refugee center, it’s not the same as Sweden,” he said.
Michaela is proud of her son’s decision to volunteer at the center.
“I think it’s a great opportunity because [the refugee crisis] is the biggest issue in Europe right now. It’s going to change Europe. How do you deal with it? It’s a real problem. For [Max] to get his own insight, read articles and have the opportunity to meet different people who deal with the same problem, is great,” she said.
Morgan is planning on using his summer experience for the senior project needed to graduate South Tahoe High School. To learn more about Morgan’s time at the refugee center, visit his blog at http://www.flykting2016.com.
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