Quaker Service Sweden (QSS)
QSS is part of the Religious Society of Friends in Sweden, but is financially independent of that body. In line with Swedish law, its finances are checked each year by an authorised public accountant. QSS is run by a very small committee, all of whom are volunteers (not salaried), which means that apart from small administrative costs, all the money that is raised goes directly to the projects that it supports. QSS supports various organisations and projects in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Georgia, Palestine and Russia. The organisations and projects in Burundi, Georgia and Palestine are all Quaker-based, whereas in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Russia, different organisations are supported.
In Burundi, QSS first supported conflict management and reconciliation initiatives following the violent struggles between the different ethnic groups in Rwanda and Burundi. QSS also helped Quakers in Burundi to build a Peace School (opened in 1999). Since then it has supported Quaker initiatives to develop a vocational school for both boys and girls. The most recent support has been to help Burundi Quakers establish and develop training in organic farming methods and production, and thereby help to improve food production in the country as a whole. Training is carried out in cooperatives, where everyone – regardless of gender and ethnicity – takes part. This also contributes to a long-term reconciliation process. In addition, land that was either neglected or destroyed as a result of the internal conflicts is now being reclaimed and cultivated, while terracing, tree-planting and other cultivation methods ensure the efficient use of the country’s limited water resources.
QSS supports the small Quaker group in Georgia. Georgia is a very poor country and Quakers there have been working for reconciliation between the different minority groups since the civil war. More recently, QSS has contributed to the distribution of blood sugar measurement instruments to patients with diabetes, which has enabled them manage their condition on a daily basis at home.
In Palestine, QSS supports preschool children in Gaza through Quaker Service Norway, which has responsibility for 13 preschools in Gaza catering for some 1,700 children. As a result of the recent war, the need for reconstruction and trauma-counselling/healing has increased dramatically. In Ramallah, QSS supports the programme for pupils with different impairments run by the Friends School. Also in Ramallah, QSS supports the Amari Play Centre in the Amari Refugee Camp, which since 1974 has provided preschool education for some 40 children from the camp. Over the years the Play Centre has become a symbol for tolerance and its services are much appreciated by the camp’s Muslim population.
In Bangladesh, QSS supports the organisation called Sabalamby Unnayan Samity (SUS, which basically means ‘help for self-help’), which works with the ultra-poor in the northeast part of the country. SUS is a well-respected development aid actor in Bangladesh with considerable influence at the local and national level and is included in local, national and international networks. One of QSS’s first initiatives was to help SUS to build a Model Farm to provide local training in organic cultivation, compost-making and the production of domestic gas from manure. A heritage seed bank has also been created for the collection of hardy rice varieties and other crops for demonstration and distribution purposes. QSS has continued to support SUS’s work with extremely poor people in the different villages around Netrakona. This works is based on an integrated approach that includes the provision of basic education, helping the poor to become economically self-supporting by means of micro-finance, organising training courses to prevent violence against women and to create better relations between the sexes, helping to combat disease, providing pre-natal and post-natal care, educating women about health issues, and organising human rights groups and training. SUS has also built a hospital for the very poor and a sheltered home for vulnerable and abused women.
Through the organisation “Support for Ethiopian Former Inmates Rehabilitation – Sweden”, known as SEFIR-S, QSS supports the rehabilitation of children and young people between 9-30 years of age in Ethiopia after they have served prison sentences so that they can function fully in their original environments and not return to criminality. The organisation’s vision is “Seeing Ethiopia, free of children and youth criminality, where peace and tranquillity prevails”.
In Russia, QSS has recently supported the Russian translation of a book on outdoor learning and a seminar in which Russian teachers were trained in the process. Over the years it has also supported ‘seed projects’ for young people and the elderly in St. Petersburg to cultivate cottage gardens and grow health-giving crops and has helped autistic youngsters to integrate into everyday life.