Hello Stranger! Running Club Lets Refugees Keep Pace With New Neighbors

Hello Stranger! Running Club Lets Refugees Keep Pace With New Neighbors

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People who were once literally running for their lives from conflicts across North Africa and the Middle East, are now running for fun with new friends in Sweden.

Locals in the winter sports resort of Östersund formed the unique running club, “Hej Främling!” (“Hello Stranger!”) to help refugees assimilate into the community.

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Skiers Emma Arnesson and Anne Lundberg started volunteering to help asylum seekers adjust to life in the ski-resort town back in 2013. They taught cross-country skiing to more than 300 refugees that first winter.

Runners Martin Machnow and Christine Hagglund heard about their work and offered to help with summer sports. Other athletic activities from yoga to football have been added to the roster since then.

The four created “Hello Stranger!” which is credited with building a bond between townspeople and more than 500 refugees so far.Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher CC Skssoft CC Georges BiardRELATED: Comedy Couple Commit $1M Act of Kindness for Refugee Children

Other cities across Sweden are adopting the model, creating running clubs to integrate refugees into their communities.

“The government and its institutions can only do so much,” Machnow told The Guardian. “Integration is about people meeting people – connecting into a wide network into the society where the refugees will build their future.”

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