A group of big-hearted Swedes is not what you’d expect to find at addiction recovery centres in rural Aberdeenshire – but such is a day in the life of Teen Challenge North East Scotland.
We recently welcomed the team from Teen Challenge Sweden to our men’s centre, Sunnybrae, near Fyvie, and women’s recovery home, Benaiah, near Mintlaw, for a one-week outreach trip.
The partnership formed after leader of the Swedish group, Christian Alderblad, put a call out through the Global Teen Challenge network – made up of 1400 centres in 125 countries – for opportunities for his team to visit, help and support another TC facility.
Christian explained: “We were eager to help those struggling with addiction in another country and were delighted when the door opened for us to serve our Scottish friends at Teen Challenge North East Scotland.
“We wanted to share best practice, while getting refreshed and finding inspiration for our work back home in Sweden.
“It was fantastic to see how, even though we have a different history, culture and language, the heart behind what we do is exactly the same – that is to do all we can to support hurting people back to full life
“An interesting cultural difference, which we noticed and actually really liked, is that in Scotland there is very much a clear attitude. In Sweden we try to be so polite and are afraid of having different opinions on things. In Scotland, we found people much more straight-forward.
“We also discovered Irn Bru!
“One of our group came back truly inspired to apply all she had learned back into the work she does with youth in Sweden.
“She saw the hopelessness addicts can experience, but also saw how through love, compassion, care and support, hope can return and people’s lives can dramatically change.
“By seeing how dark life can get for addicts, she wants to do all she can to help ensure young people in Sweden people don’t experience the same.
Area Manager of Teen Challenge North East Scotland, Gordon Cruden, added: “We have had teams come to our centres in the past and it always works well from our side.
“We run a very structured and disciplined programme so it’s important that any guests understand this, and appreciate the sensitivities involved.
“Our Swedish friends did exactly that and got stuck into life at both Sunnybrae and Benaiah.
“They brought a great taste of Sweden – quite literally one evening, when they cooked us 300 meatballs – and really came alongside our men and women to encourage and support them.”