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“Life is pretty darn good!” Jonas’ new friend shouted from across the road after their afternoon on the golf course. In that moment, Jonas could clearly feel that something good was happening.

Jonas is a 34 year old trained teacher who works as a caregiver for individuals with disabilities. In his free time, he volunteers as a dream agent with Red Cross Copenhagen. Here, he has been matched with a participant from the substance abuse treatment program. The two meet weekly to try out new hobbies and communities. He has been involved since the beginning of the project and understands the challenges that the participants face.

“Right as I graduated, I was actually still attending group treatment sessions on Hørsholmsgade”, he explains.

Always easier to be two

During his treatment, Jonas was often told that it would be a good idea to find a hobby when he got on the other side. Copenhagen offers a multitude of activities and opportunities, but several things can hold one back from showing up.

“It’s good advice, but it is incredibly difficult and abstract if you haven’t been used to having many hobbies or perhaps had to say goodbye to your circle of friends. Maybe you think it could be fun to start playing football, but you’re not quite sure if you dare. I know it’s always easier when you have someone to do it with,” Jonas says.

A volunteer not a case worker

For Jonas, it makes perfect sense to spend a couple of hours each week helping another person move forward. 

“I read about dream agents on Facebook, and then I thought it was exactly what I was missing back then. At least for a period, having someone to help you explore things you’d like to do. So, I really think it made sense.”

When Jonas meets up with his new friend, they meet on equal terms, and it’s evident that voluntariness is the core of their relationship. 

“It seems like there’s a sense of security knowing that I’m there for him for two hours, without me having to be a reporting agency or from the municipality,” he explains.

A rewarding relationship for both parties 

One of the most crucial aspects of creating a good and equal relationship is that both parties feel that they benefit from spending time with each other. Jonas is happy to try new hobbies as well: 

“I think that’s a huge plus for him. The fact that I also gain something from our relationship, so it’s not just me spending two hours on you for your sake, but it’s mutual, and we both enjoy being together.”

Even though their relationship is equal in every way, as a volunteer, one must find the right balance in the relationship to both keep things in order and, at the same time, assist the participant.

For Jonas, it feels very natural that he takes responsibility but still perceives their relationship as completely equal.

“Perhaps, you can relate this  to a regular friendship, where it’s mostly you who takes care of booking the badminton court or something similar, but you are still equal friends,” he says.

Real relationships can bring real concerns

For Jonas, the sense of community around specific activities is one of the most important aspects of dream agents. When the two of them are together, they don’t have to think about anything else expect being together and being activity buddies.

“When you’ve had a substance abuse problem, you’re constantly talking about it. Here, you have the opportunity to meet someone who can lead you into communities where you talk about everything else but addiction,” he explains.

Although the friendship is fantastic and mutually rewarding in many ways, it can also create some worry for Jonas, especially if he notices that their agreements are being broken:

“It could be that he has relapsed or just lost the motivation for project. It does create some concerns, but on the other hand, it’s also what makes it feel real – I genuinely become concerned.”

Fortunately, the dream agents have direct contact with both the activity coordinator at Red Cross Copenhagen and a staff member from the substance abuse treatment program.”

Dreams about a better future

Jonas’ match lasts for a period of six months, and then the program comes to an end. Jonas dreams that by that time, they will have found a community where his new friend can find secruity. 

“During these six months, I’m going all in on this and truly benfitting from it myself. When the six months are over, I really hope he’s in a better place than when we first met. This is a stepping stone for him to become better at helping himsef get started,” Jonas explains.

Written by Niels Feddersen