March 21 2017
By Kristoffe Biglete

TEDxCopenhagen Speakers – Where are they now? Mads Nygaard

Mads Nygaard at his TEDxCopenhagen speech in April 2016 experienced the power of storytelling. And the audience sat enraptured, feeling the same.

For him condensing the story of two years of intense involvement working with refugees, first at Hjørring Asylum centre and then bolstering Venligboerne – the grass roots, citizen driven effort to support refugees, into a 16 minute talk has been quite an insightful and creative experience.

 

It’s a story that had to be shared on the TEDxCopenhagen stage – a story where a social media mobilized call to action has received support from 155,000 members online in meeting various needs of refugees. Whether it involves helping newcomers with a network of friends who can help them get settled, find a home, get paper work done or simply to have a chat over coffee, hear about their interests and facilitate in pursuing them, Venligboers (friendly neighbours) have offered support in a variety of ways.

 

For Mads, sharing his story of developing and working with Venligboerne on the TEDx stage was a huge experience that made him realize even more why he is part of this group. Speaking out loud the simple acts of kindness that required just a coffee machine to bring people together, Mads became even more aware of the pursuit of equality. As he says, kindness as an ideal can be fluffy, but acts that bring about equality are tangible.

 

A Continuous Pursuit for Equality

A man who wakes up with a sense of adventure and purpose everyday, continues to bring awareness to the work of Venligboerne through speaking engagements. In addition, he is a very active contributor in the group helping connect people who might be able to provide the sought assistance.

 

With 111 Venligboerne groups across the country, the movement itself is growing and efforts are being made to bring its members together. Some members of the team are currently on a week-long nationwide #TourDeVenligbo to meet volunteers from other groups spread across Denmark, starting from Copenhagen to cities in Jylland and ending in Kerteminde in the island of Fyn. Up next for Mads and his team is to organize a summer barbeque to bring upto 6000 refugees and Venligboers together in Fredericia in July 2017. And in between these activities, the writer in Mads continues to document the narratives of relationships he has formed, and experiences of trials and triumph encountered as a member of this community.

 

- By Surabhi Goswami