Having lived in Denmark for three years, I find that summer is the time of the year where Denmark can really show why it is considered “the happiest place on Earth”. In Copenhagen, residents and tourists have the privilege (for only a few months) to enjoy a mild summer and long days while sitting in one of the many green parks that the city has to offer and if it’s not a park you like, then rest assure you will find your place near a lake. So much laughter, so many smiles and oh so “hygge”! Summer in Copenhagen is the time where people are really brought together and enjoy the small things that little Denmark has to offer, so why ask for more? Because not everyone is brought together.
As mentioned, summer brings out the beauty in Copenhagen but it also brings out the sadness. Have you noticed how many people are out picking and collecting bottles in the streets? Many. While you are enjoying your cold beer or drink, there are people who are after the can you are drinking from and they do not do it to harass you, they do it because there is no other choice. For you, a can is the thing you drink your beer from to get you happy and drunk but for them, a can is a means of survival. As I have sat in numerous parks around the city, I notice the way people treat the collectors and it makes me sad. They stare, they laugh and talk behind their backs because of what they do and they themselves cannot imagine ever being in such a vulnerable situation thanks to their welfare system. No one seems to care about who they truly are, what they have gone through to get to that point in their life, what they feel, what they want, what their hopes and dreams are
The Extra Mile Project works to remind our users and the general public that a collector can be anyone: and engineer, a chef, a builder, an artist, a teacher, a fisherman, etc. Collecting bottles is by no means degrading. It is a means that enables people to come up with sufficient funds to seek refuge at night in a cold city and a means to put some warm food in their stomach in order to survive and hope that tomorrow will be another day with better opportunities. Collectors contribute to the image of Copenhagen being a green city by reducing the damage that bottles and cans cause to ecosystems and help preserve the image of a clean city. Collecting bottles is not an easy job and it often requires many hours in order to scrape up the necessary to get through the day. But still the question remains: Why to collect bottles and cans when you can get a real job? It’s not that simple and The Extra Mile Project is extremely aware of that.
Job hunting in Denmark is not that easy, especially for someone who is not a Dane or speaks the language fluently. To reside in Denmark, you have to have a job for at least three months and also have a valid address which is become difficult as the time goes by. Migrants are extremely vulnerable people who are at constant risk of falling victims to housing and work fraud that makes their process to legally reside in Denmark even harder. But as employers become tougher and unfair, the abusive and illegal landlord is rising rent and will continue to do so unless the government puts a stop to it. If you are an “expat” or a “migrant” or whatever label you choose for yourself, you will hear many terrifying stories of people working with horrible wages or residing in places that are illegal. It is the big elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge when they actually should because it is not only the foreigner who experiences this but also Danes themselves and the more the abuse continues, the more it undermines the Danish welfare system. As job mentors for the Extra Mile Program we assist in upholding the Danish welfare system by guiding our user to get back on track with their job hunt to find a job that has fair wages and is legal in every way and therefore enabling the user to contribute to the Danish society in a fair and easy manner.
Denmark is a small country and many feel that too many people reside here and that it is not the rich and proud country it once used to be. If you are one of those people who feel that way, then allow me to say something to you: be proud. Be proud that your small country has defied the odds and serves as example of what many countries aim to be. Be proud in knowing you are part of the happiest people on Earth because you have a wonderful culture, an extraordinary sense of community, honesty, transparency and BIG heart. Be proud in knowing that your little country has done so much for you and for so many other people without expecting much in return except the possibility of making the world a better place for all.