UN diplomat Finn Reske-Nielsen on international development cooperation


Former United Nations diplomat, Finn Reske-Nielsen, was the guest speaker at last event organised by UNYA Aalborg. Finn discussed a number of interesting ideas regarding international development cooperation. Personally, I would describe the discussion as a light and easy conversation. I had expected Finn to be more on the serious side of the scale. However, he seemed intrigued by the comments and questions he received from the audience. The conversation was homogenous in a manner, as it seemed as if everyone agreed with one another on some level, and if they didn’t, they discussed their ideas openly. The questions and comments that the speaker received levelled well with the presentation he had prepared, and made for a fruitful discussion.

In a recent interview that the UNYA team had conducted, Finn was asked how the UN could get more developed countries to contribute to international development. “Persuasion and begging” replied Finn, less humourlessly, as he explained that the UN does not have the capital to fund big programmes. If the UN intends to plan a major project, Finn clarified, the donor countries, the rich countries and the developed nations must contribute financially. Mr. Reske-Nielsen made an interesting point in regard to the benefit in assisting with development in developing countries, “when you provide successful development assistance and you lift countries out of poverty, you create markets”. Therefore, investing in the development of countries creates economic benefits for the countries, which choose to invest.

The UN has set 17 goals for Sustainable Development ‘17 goals to transform the world’. The first goal that the UN has is to end poverty, everywhere, and in all its forms. The goal claims that the economic growth of a country, should contribute to creating sustainable jobs that promote equality. This is a major goal that developed countries can contribute to by investing in the development of the developing countries. Additionally, as previously states, investing is beneficial in terms of economic growth, which further provides security, for both the nations helping and being helped.

UN_goalsGoal number 17 of the UN’s sustainable development is entitled ‘partnership for the goals: revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development’, and emphasises the points that Finn made in the interview, and in his presentation. This goal emphasises the need to redirect the money in the world in creating sustainable societies and environments for the people, by claiming that the planet and the people should be in the central focus. It claims that in order to build a sustainable community we need to have “a shared vision at a global, regional, national and local level”. Mr. Reske Nielsen claims that if a private company chooses to operate in a developing country, they have to make sure that certain factors such as infrastructure, transport, and communication are in capacity. This point is also emphasised by goal 17, as it claims that long term foreign investment is needed in developing countries to strengthen these factors.

If you are interested in global politics and issues, please join us for our next event about Human Rights Action Against ISIS. We will have another guest speaker, Associate Professor Ben Dorfman, who will share his riveting insights on the topic.

A Brief Background on Associate Professor Ben Dorfman


Ben Dorfman is an associate professor at Aalborg University’s Institute for Culture and Global Studies, as well as the chair of the Board of Studies, Language and International Studies. His research areas include world, political, intellectual and cultural history, human rights and historical representation. He is originally from the United States, having studied and worked there. He taught history and philosophy before he moved to Denmark to teach at AAU. His interest in history, and particularly in human rights has inspired his career, and also the publishing of his recent book: 13 Acts of Academic Journalism and Historical Commentary on Human Rights.

Professor Dorfman’s path to this point in his career hasn’t been a straight and narrow one as he has had many jobs and actually started his degree out as a music major, “I wanted to get into the arts and maybe become a jazz musician, but once I started studying music, I realized that what I was really interested in was the philosophical meaning of the arts, and the way art tells us about history. I have always been interested in history throughout my whole life”, he reflected during a recent interview the United Nations Youth Association had with him. This realization is what made professor Dorfman pursue a major in history as “history is the grand overview of human experience”, as he put it. Professor Dorfman finished his education with a PhD in history, with a specialization in the history of ideas, which focused on concepts, philosophical ideas and modes of thinking.

Working at AAU was professor Dorfman’s first job that brought him to an international level in his career. This was a significant step for his career as his focus has been on the global issue of human rights, with AAU’s Institute for Culture and Global Studies serving as a perfect environment for his academic endeavours. Professor Ben Dorfman is an accomplished academic with a passion for human rights and how he can contribute to make the world a more peaceful and better place.

We hope you are excited to hear from him at our upcoming event that he will be speaking at: ‘Human Rights in the Action Against ISIS’. It will start at 17:30 at the International House North Denmark. Find out more on the Facebook event page.

Refugee Stories: Closing the Gap


The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee as “any person forced to flee from their country by violence or persecution”. It is widely known that since 2011, the world has seen the highest levels of displacement ever registered. The UNHCR estimates that nearly 65 million people have been displaced due to conflict and persecution during 2016, and that 20 people are forced to flee their homes every minute. According to the Danish Immigration and Integration Ministry, during 2015 and 2016, considered the peak of the so-called refugee crisis, 36,108 people sought asylum in Denmark.

In the face of such figures, it is easy to become numb to human struggle. People are turned into menacing ‘waves’ or unwanted ‘flows’. As an organization founded with the aim of guaranteeing respect for human rights, the United Nations’ role in this scenario is to make sure refugees are safely resettled and can restart their lives with dignity.

UNYA believes that a fundamental part of this process is to address it locally. The purpose of this event was thus to contribute to narrowing the distance between local populations and people with a refugee background. A gap which is evidenced by commonly expressed misconceptions and stereotypes attached to the label ‘refugee’, and might generate obstacles to integration or become fuel to anti-immigration policies.

In collaboration with the Danish Refugee Youth Council (DFUNK), UNYA gathered 3 speakers willing to share their journeys and experiences as refugees in Denmark.


Alex Berg, the first speaker of the evening, shared with the audience his three-week journey from Syria to Denmark in 2015, his thoughts on his country, his journey, and his new life in Denmark. Alex’s journey from Syria, like many other refugees seeking asylum, was not a smooth one. Treading through ISIS territory, travelling through dangerous transportation means and living in uncertainty by putting his life in the hands of smugglers, Alex successfully made it into Denmark, leaving his family, education, and possessions behind.

“If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 42 in Syria”, said Alex, explaining why he made this life-altering decision to leave Syria, “you are subject to be called for the army to serve the military where there is a 90% chance that you will be killed fighting on the battlefield”. Alex was studying at university in Damascus and was applying for a master’s program at the time, however, his reservation was cancelled because of the war. By default, he would have to join the military service, which in those circumstances would most probably mean a death sentence.

In Denmark, Alex has integrated into society enthusiastically. He voluntarily accepted a Danish host family who he meets with every second week and during holidays, has completed Danish language school and is doing a bachelor’s of humanities at Aalborg University. Alex has adjusted to life in Denmark over the past two years, although not without challenges.             


The second speaker, Taisir, is also a Syrian citizen. His home city Raqqa was one of the most affected by the war. Like Alex, he enjoyed a good life in his country before the war broke out. He has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and had been an English teacher for six years. Leaving home was not an easy decision for him, but a necessary one. “I came to Denmark in order to open a new page in my life after the war had destroyed everything I knew. I left behind my family, my friends and my childhood memories”.

Taisir opened his speech with the question, “Do you guys know falafel and hummus?” to which the audience responded with ‘oo’s’ and ‘ahh’s’. “Well, they are from Syria!”, he informed the room with a hint of pride in his tone. It is important to him that people associate Syria not only with violence and tragedy, but with its positive contributions to human history and to our everyday lives. “Most of you know Syria today as death, destruction, and war. However, I want you to know that Syria was a credit to all civilizations. For example, the first wheat planted was in Syria during 700BC”.

During his journey, one of the experiences that shocked him the most was an encounter with a judge in Macedonia, who asked for 100 to let him and his friends continue on their way up north. It took him 4 months to arrive in Denmark, where, for the first time, he joked, he was the one to look for the police, instead of the other way around.

Despite the strenuous journey, it was extremely important for him to get here. His choice of destination involved the contacts he had in Denmark; friends who resettled in the country before him. They had told him that the Danish asylum system included an integration program and it was generally faster than other countries. As he needed to rebuild his life from scratch, he was determined to go wherever he would have the best chances.

Taisir has been in Denmark for about three and half years now. Currently, he is in the first year of his master’s studies in Culture, Communication and Globalization, at Aalborg University. He has volunteered as an Arabic-English translator in his asylum centre. He speaks Danish well and is an active part of DFUNK, mainly as a storyteller.


The final speaker, Patrick, was born in Rwanda, but in 1994, when the genocide occurred, his family chose to flee and seek refuge elsewhere. Patrick explained, “My father was told to kill my mother because she was a Tutsi and he was Hutu, but my father didn’t do that because he loved my mother very much, and he loved me, too”. Patrick and his family sought refuge in several camps across southern Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia, but returned back to Rwanda when they received news that the civil strife was over. Upon their return, his father was called into questioning by the police, and never came back. “My mother had a son who was Hutu, and she herself was Tutsi, and that was a crime”, Patrick stated. Patrick’s mother did not want to give him up, so she chose to leave Rwanda and start a new life for them elsewhere, and ended up at a UN refugee camp where they eventually found their place in Denmark.

“When my mother told me we were moving to Denmark, I said what is Denmark?” Patrick recalled with a wide grin on his face, about to deliver an amusing anecdote from his childhood. “Remember that Jackie Chan movie?” his mother replied, “It’s kind of like that”. So, as a young boy moving from southern Africa to Denmark, Patrick pictured Denmark as an exciting Jackie Chan movie. Patrick’s integration in Denmark was not so difficult. He was young, highly adaptable and liked to play football with the other kids, so he learned fast. Patrick feels at home in Denmark as he stated, “If someone asked me where I am from today, I would say Denmark because it is the one place I have lived the longest in”.

There were a few challenges Patrick experienced due to his turbulent childhood, as he said, “I was behind in everything, I had to fight if I wanted any chance to make it”. And fight he did as he went on to a gymnasium, then a bachelor’s in philosophy at Aalborg University, and is currently doing a master’s in sociology, besides coordinating DFUNK’s Outreach group, with the mission of spreading awareness about refugee-related facts.

Listening to the stories of Alex, Taisir and Patrick was a highly educational experience for the audience and the UNYA team. The 3 speakers shared with us their journeys that were sad and emotional at times, however, all 3 of them included some humour in their presentations and shared many positive aspects of their life in Denmark. The most important lesson to take away from this event was to realize that there is a person behind the term ‘refugee’; a person with hopes, dreams, goals and inspiring stories to tell.

Aalborg Students’ Inspiring Sustainability Projects


UNYA held “Student Talks” about enthralling student projects in the field of sustainable development to raise awareness among residents about the students’ involvement in creating a more sustainable Aalborg. Three projects were presented by three groups of Aalborg University students.

The first group of students stood up to present their outstanding project, which was “Urban Energy and Environmental Planning – Cities & Sustainability”.

These students developed a sustainability-oriented project for Aalborg East in November 2017 under the student competition named “Aalborg East 2030 – Visions & Investments”, organized by Himmerland Housing Association, supported by Aalborg University, the Mmunicipality and Business Network 9220. The goal of this competition was to gather ideas for sustainable development of Aalborg East by 2030 taking into accont the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.

28951224_1625962224161558_6160213314241560576_oTheir project was based on revitalizing the Planetcentre in Aalborg East by creating liveability through public spaces and shared services. Aalborg East, in general, is characterised by isolated neighbourhoods and infrastructure prioritizing car usage. Therefore, public life in the streets is sparse. The Planetcentre is an old shopping mall from the 1970s and is characterised by frigid and empty spaces. Therefore, the students chose to revitalise it to increase its attractiveness and to boost the liveability of the area. They focused on responsible use of the area, products and materials, community involvement, sharing economy and accessibility by bike and walking. Furthermore, they developed an exciting timeline with progressing events and activities at the Planetcentre until 2030. Their enlightening project definitely drew the attention of Himmerland Housing Association, Aalborg University and municipality in the competition.

29027556_1625963167494797_5169896076005605376_oThe next project was developed by Erasmus+ master students from the “Joint European Master in Environmental Studies – Cities and Sustainability” programme for the same competition in November 2017. The project, which I am a part of, was focused on a different field of sustainability, namely integrating sustainability education into the existing system of school education. The major objective was to ensure quality education for the youth, and decent work, good health and well-being for the residents of Aalborg East in a longer run. Our main credo was that better quality of education in the East will bring more people to the area and will enhance the liveability as well as improve the economic situation there.

The project focused on establishing a new department in one of the schools of Aalborg East. The proposed department had several internal and external functions to manage the new study focus. The exceptional part of this project was the proposal of a membership card specifically for the residents of Aalborg East to increase the liveability and to boost sustainability education at schools as one of the offers for parents. All over, this outstanding project was noticed by the school manager and other persons during its development in November 2017, but has not been considered further due to the current different focus of the municipality in the development of school education.

28872747_1625963007494813_3764275102477189120_oThe last presentation was held by the students engaged in International Network of Green Agents (INGA). INGA was established by the Sustainability department of Aalborg municipality and focuses on students’ involvement in the transition towards sustainability of Aalborg city. It is a quite new organization (established in September 2017) and has been first coordinated by the Australian manager Timothy Shue. Now, INGA consists of 9 interdisciplinary students from Aalborg University coming from different countries. The previous year, within 12 weeks, the INGA 1.0 team has assisted the Centre for Green Transition to assess the current stage of the campaign “Gør os alle grønnere” and to develop further strategies for the campaign. The outcome of their project gave 8 recommendations for future steps. Indeed, they are not going to finish with one result! This year, they will continue to assess in a campaign and with sustainable transition of the city with a new upgrade INGA 2.0. They are willing to foster collaboration with different actors, such as universities, AAU Case Competition, AAU Match, etc. to broaden their potential. Moreover, they will assist in developing the Sustainability Festival 2018.

For more information about the projects of each group, please contact the following emails:


Our speakers addressed the following SDGs:


From Scandinavia to the Tropics: Advocating for the Necessity to Protect our Oceans


Last week, the United Nations Youth Association brought some tropical vibes to wintry Aalborg. The topic Coral Reefs and Denmark: Looking beyond the Island Paradise raised some issues of international concern regarding the health of our oceans in the era of climate change.


A mixed audience of students, professors, divers and citizens keen to know more about the topic attended a short lecture that opened the door for debate about the future of coral reefs and the oceans. Consequently, UNYA screened the Oscar-shortlisted documentary Chasing Coral (2017) to illustrate the points made during the lecture.

The focus of the event was to raise awareness about the importance of coral reefs for the oceans and the economy across the globe. The need to keep our oceans healthy and work for greener policies that help combat human-induced climate change became even more evident in the mass coral bleaching events that took place in 2014, 2015 and 2017. They were the longest and deadliest events in recorded history and affected the reefs all around the world.

Saxon Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

These deadly events represent an environmental disaster and are not something that started in the long and distant past. They were first documented in our lifetime. In the 1980s, the first ever global coral bleaching event was recorded by scientists. However, this was only the first sign of what was to come a few years later, in the 1990s, 2000s and now again in the 2010s. Coral bleaching events are now predicted to become stronger, deadlier and more destructive, due to human-induced climate change. Bleaching occurs when the water temperature rises above normal. One or two degrees Celsius above average is more than enough to trigger the deadly event. With higher temperatures, corals stress and they expel the microorganisms that recover them, which give the vivid colours that corals have and which provide them with almost 90% of their food. In this case, corals turn into a ghostly white skeleton, which will die in a few days if the waters don’t cool down.

Corals are microscopic jellyfish-kind-of-like organisms that can be soft or hard. Soft corals are often confused with plants and hard corals with rocks, but this is not the case and they are far more than that. Hard corals create a hard limestone covering where they grow. Over time, these microscopic animals can create a structure the size of a house. When many coral colonies grow together, they build a reef. The vastness that these structures can achieve can be appreciated even from space. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the most spectacular example of it, stretching for more than 2600 km. off the North-Eastern coast of Australia. To put things into perspective, its size is comparable to the distance between Aalborg and Istanbul.

Reefs provide food and protection for the communities that live in, on and around them. Globally, it is estimated that almost one billion people live in a proximity of less than 100 km. to a coral reef. Moreover, these ecosystems are extremely rich in biodiversity. They occupy less than 0,1% of the Earth’s surface but are home to more than 25% of all marine life. In addition, they are extremely beneficial to the economies of the surrounding countries, in that they provide abundant sources of food and fish, which these countries rely upon. But not only that, they also provide a very good incentive for European countries, such as Denmark, by selling fishing licenses to them. Also, coral reefs provide protection from natural phenomena, such as storms and tsunamis.

There are several problems that coral reefs face today; from coral bleaching, rising sea levels and water acidification, to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish and overfishing. The most urgent problems appear to be those triggered by climate change, such as coral bleaching. This problem causes the coral to starve to death. In the short run, a bleached coral can recover if the water temperature decreases. If the water doesn’t cool down, a continuous period of bleaching will kill the coral. A dead coral means a dead reef and dead reefs lead to a dead ecosystem. The question is then, can we afford to have a whole ecosystem extinct? If we can’t save this ecosystem, what does this mean for the next ecosystem to be threatened?

Kaafu Atoll, Maldives

Healthy oceans are a global concern. One of the few strategies where the international community has found common ground is that we need to reduce our carbon emissions because they have a direct impact on reefs and oceans. With this presentation, UNYA proved that the science behind coral reefs and the health of the oceans is not a closed field of study accessible only by the scientists who are already in it, but also by ordinary citizens who want to have a positive impact on the planet.

By presenting a topic that is more often than not relegated to the scientific community, UNYA incited the attendees to take action in their everyday life to reduce their environmental footprint. To achieve this positive effect you don’t need to go far away in the tropics to provide hands-on assistance. The small gestures, such as reducing your water and energy consumption, can have a big impact on the planet if they influence the people around you to take action too. By knowing more about this topic and spreading the word, the people around you are more likely to be influenced and to get involved in reducing their environmental footprint.


How do the actions of an individual in Denmark affect what is happening in Hawaii, the Maldives, French Polynesia or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? With this question in mind, UNYA gave an overview of the present situation in the oceans around the world regarding the dangers for coral reefs, their importance for the global community and the involvement of international organisations to protect reefs and oceans against climate change. It bridged the gap between the problems that tropical and Scandinavian countries face. It raised awareness about the health of our oceans by making the topic relevant for an audience in Denmark. Ultimately, it addressed the challenges that every member of society faces when they take actions that have an impact on the planet.


EVENT PHOTOS: Michaela Higgins Sørensen and Alex Berg

What is Coming Up: UNYA-Aalborg Calendar of Events

Here you can find a summary of upcoming events that volunteers from UNYA Aalborg have organized for you this semester. The calendar will be updated regularly, so add this article to your bookmarks!

The organizers would appreciate that, in case you want to attend any of the events, you press ‘Going’ on them on Facebook. All of them are free and open to everyone.

We hope to see you soon!



What: Successes and challenges: Can International Development Cooperation Do the Job?

When: 15/3/2018 (Thursday), 17:00

Where: Huset i Hasserisgade, Aalborg

What to expect: During this event, you will get the chance to learn more about international development through the eyes of an expert, who has worked for the United Nations for more than 35 years.

Our speaker will be Mr. Finn Reske-Nielsen, former UN diplomat whose previous appointments include Timor-Leste, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, New York, Geneva, Namibia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Amongst others, he has held positions such as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Governance Support, Development and Humanitarian Coordination in UNMIT. Mr. Reske-Nielsen will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.




What: Refugee stories

When: 8/3/2018 (Thursday), 17:00

Where: International House North Denmark, Aalborg

What to expect: In the recent years, ‘refugee’ became one of the most frequently used words. Refugees are all over the media, the political debates and also in our personal conversations. But how many of you have actually talked to a refugee?

During this event, you will get the chance to learn about the stories of refugees from Syria and Eritrea. You will get to hear about their personal experiences, including how their lives changed when they arrived and settled down in Denmark.

The event is free and open to all. However, due to the sensitivity of the topic, we would like to limit the number of participants. Therefore make sure to reserve a spot here. There are only 25 seats available, so be quick! In case the event is fully booked, you can still get a chance to attend. If someone with a reservation does not show up at the venue until 16:55, the unclaimed tickets will be given to the ones without a ticket on a first come, first served basis.




What: Student Talks: Enlightening Sustainability Projects

When: 27/2/2018 (Tuesday), 17:30

Where: International House North Denmark, Aalborg

What to expect: The United Nations Youth Association of Aalborg is happy to engage students in its Sustainable Development campaign.

In this event, students enrolled in sustainability courses at Aalborg University will present the projects they have prepared on Sustainable Development. You will get a chance to find out how students can contribute to the local, national and global initiatives to tackle climate change and environmental degradation, to benefit societies and economies.

Some of the presented projects gained the attention of and are now considered by the public and private institutions and some will serve as the base for further research. The students will be more than happy to answer your questions regarding sustainable development.




What: Coral Reefs and Denmark: Looking beyond the Island Paradise

When: 13/2/2018 (Tuesday), 17:30

Where: International House North Denmark, Aalborg

What to expect: During this event, you will find out about the importance of coral reefs, how are these extraordinary ecosystems affected by climate change and why it is necessary to protect our oceans.

We will start with a short presentation about this topic and why it is problem for people everywhere; not just in the exotic destinations where coral reefs grow. We will also look into the issue from a Danish perspective. As a low lying country, Denmark is also affected by the rising sea levels, and the health of the oceans on the other side of the world affects directly the citizens of Denmark too.

A screening of the documentary ‘Chasing Coral’ will follow, which was shortlisted to win an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2018.

Fighting Food Waste in Aalborg and Bringing People Together with a Smile


In the line of promoting sustainable development, which UNYA has been following since September 2017, our Aalborg journalists went on the hunt for inspiring stories to share about people trying to make a difference in Denmark. This difference comes from the need to help the communities where we are living in, promoting a more sustainable living and raising awareness about practices that are jeopardizing the planet.

The charming project manager, Stella

Recently, UNYA interviewed the project manager of Café Smile on Skipper Clements Gade 9, Aalborg. Her name is Stella and she opened the Café in September 2017. Café Smile has been offering an enjoyable atmosphere with a hot cup of tea, coffee or delicious cakes prepared by the volunteers, and at the same time fighting food waste by giving away free food and groceries to everyone interested.

  • How has Stella started the Café and where did the idea come from?

Today, the café welcomes students, locals, internationals, refugees and everyone who has an interest in having a cosy evening in the centre of Aalborg. However, the endeavours to make the café what it is today had started far before September. Stella’s passion and career as a volunteer to help refugees started in a hotel in Aalborg. She was allocating incoming refugees in the hotel rooms for some period before they get the permanent apartment or house. The hotel possessed a family atmosphere for refugees, and the volunteers there worked to keep the peaceful and welcoming atmosphere among new coming refugees.

“There was a café-based gathering where refugees were offered a coffee, tea and some cakes and snacks, and played games, while they enjoyed the hotel together”, she says.

Later, the number of refugees coming to Aalborg and looking for a place to stay decreased and there was no need to keep the hotel as a hosting venue. Meanwhile, the necessity to keep refugees in an amiable atmosphere in Aalborg city is still relevant.

The Copenhagen Churches Integration Services had shown interest in establishing the “café-based gathering for internationals for Aalborg”. Stella was then called in to manage this endeavour.

“I started to think about a café, what the opportunities, the functions are. In the beginning, I did not even know how many people could come and be attracted, but now they come to know and then come back later”, she says. 

food is ready
The food is ready by Syrian volunteer cook of the day

So what does the café do?

It is a café serving different kinds of food and beverages, such as coffee, tea, cakes, lunch meals, dinner (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), sandwiches, burgers etc. It works twice per week, renting the place on Wednesdays and Fridays.

  • On Wednesdays, it serves free sandwiches, cakes and drinks.
  • On Fridays, you can find free products discarded from supermarkets, such as vegetables, fruits, breads and a wide variety of products to fill your fridge with healthy options throughout the week. All of these are given away in addition to free dinner.

Café Smile is targeting mostly students, both international and local, refugees, au pairs and spouses moving to Denmark. The café is a hub of different cultures where people can enjoy the food, the conversation and the great company.

However, this is not the end of its stunning offers. The café has multiple free board games for guests and café members to play. It is run by volunteers cooking and serving for the clients. Everyone can easily stay for a longer period and enjoy the day in the hyggelig atmosphere of the café.

A pleasant dinner on Friday evening

Usually, there are around 20-40 people coming to the Café on Wednesdays and Fridays. The café has already led some events, e.g. music night, games night, pre-Christmas event. Those days, the café attracts even more people.


  • What about volunteers of the Café?

Approximately ten volunteers work on a permanent basis with flexible schedules. Other volunteers engage infrequently and are willing to assist when they have free time. Some come specifically on Wednesdays or on Fridays, others come twice per month. Some volunteers are from churches, others from universities, and there are no age restrictions. Most volunteers are students, both local and international, open-minded and sociable to engage with the guests. Stella prepares the ideas for cooking and volunteers do the job. In certain cases, a volunteer cook has been assured to prepare special meals. Since this place is a melting pot of cultures, Stella sometimes arranges special ethnic meals to be prepared by volunteers. They pour their heart and soul into preparing something from their culture and share it for free with the guests of the café. And what UNYA has been able to taste so far has left us drooling and looking forward to the next meal!

smile team.JPG
Some of the cheerful volunteers of the Café
  • How does the café manage with giving away the free groceries?

There is an agreement with the churches that have been already engaged in free groceries sharing in Aalborg.  The products come from the supermarkets and other stores, gathered three times per week. One church gives away the products on Mondays, the other on Wednesdays, and Café Smile on Fridays. The groceries to be donated are carefully selected by people specifically entitled to check and deliver products to the points. Thus, the free groceries that you will be getting home with you are still in good condition to prepare yummy meals and keep your diet healthy throughout the week.

  • How does Stella foresee the future of the Café?

Café Smile has been running up to now as a completely free of charge place to get your drinks and food. Stella and her team are hoping for the café to reveal successful operation. They have now found a new permanent venue to offer you their yummy products at very affordable prices and to offer discounts for beverages for students, internationals and people in need. Therefore, you are very welcome to go to try it for free during this period. The Friday free groceries are not going to be continued in a permanent place but will be still offered in other venues.

playing the guitar
Some music after dinner

Once they move to the permanent venue, they will continue creating a peaceful atmosphere for those coming from abroad and wanting to meet locals, share their culture and alleviate the costs of life in Denmark. They believe that a “smile is the shortest distance between two people. It creates a contact even if the language is different”. And, as Stella says, they want to “meet people as they are”, and they DO!

Café Smile is open Wednesdays and Fridays, 16:00 – 20:00. Look for it on Skipper Clements Gade 9 and follow them on their Facebook page for updates on the events and offers they have.

 The UNYA team wishes an outstanding growth to the team of Café Smile and believes that their humanitarian performance will inspire other global initiatives towards the formation of a more peaceful and harmonious society!

Following one of the missions of UNYA, to promote and raise awareness about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the following SDGs are identified to have been addressed by Café Smile: