Can you take us through the history of Knas Hemma, how and why was it founded?
Knas Hemma started out as a project at The Office of Child Advocacy in Uppsala in 2013, funded by the Swedish Inheritance Fund (Allmänna Arvsfonden). The initial purpose was to make an inquiry regarding “care experienced” youths and to form a youth network for the target group. In 2018, Knas Hemma became an independent national youth organization.
So what is it actually that Knas Hemma does? What problems are you trying to solve, and how?
Knas Hemma works with children's rights and perspectives in the foster care system for the purpose of strengthening their voices, participation and rights within the social services and foster care system. We engage young people from all over Sweden between 13 – 30 years of age. The biggest issue in Sweden today, and the problem Knas Hemma is trying to solve, is the historical stigma that still keeps affecting children and youth in the care system.
When society takes over the role of caretakers, and children and youths' needs, rights and voices are not met as promised, it affects the target group on so many levels.
As a youth organization, Knas Hemma's purpose is to put emphasis on these issues, to be the voice for the community of the care experienced young people, and to enhance their voices to advocate for their rights.
What are your respective roles and responsibilities in the organization?
Anna: I am a child rights professional and the executive manager at Knas Hemma. I have many different roles, but I am mainly responsible for the project designs, collaborations, children and youth rights and developing Knas Hemma as a youth organization with participation processes amongst the team and the whole organization.
Emiliya: I have care experience and I have been involved in Knas Hemma since 2015. I started out as an ambassador for the organization but since 2018, I work full time as a project manager. My current position is to lead our project, “Efter Knas” (After Struggle) by the Swedish Inheritance Fund, (Allmänna Arvsfonden) where we are about to create a program for care leavers in Sweden.
Jennie: I also have care experience and I have been working at Knas Hemma since June 2022. I work as a project manager in our project called “Mera kärlek mindre knas” (More love less struggle), where we have weekly meetings for children and young people in foster care. These weekly meetings are a place for care experienced young people to meet other young people with the same experiences and together have a safe place. I also work as a project assistant in our project, “Efter Knas” (After Struggle).
Do you have a special memory of someone you have worked with that has made you realize the importance of the work that you do?
One of our ambassadors in Knas Hemma, joined us already in 2013. He was at the time 19 years old and his childhood was filled with violence, unsafety and lack of trust and love. But now, ten years later, he is such a role model for all of us. He has a lawyers degree and is still fighting for the unjust system and for the people that need support. His life story is a reminder to everyone that it is possible to be the change that you never thought was possible and to turn the difficult experiences into a positive outcome.
Do you have any advice to give to children and youth growing up in care?
Anna: Never stop believing in yourself. Always keep that fire burning inside of you and don't let a negative situation or person change you. It is not meant to impact you so that it becomes your life story. It is always possible for you to rewrite your life story and to create better relationships, better life experiences and to create a future that you want to live in.
It’s really important to ask for help to deal with trauma, you can’t change your past but you can decide your future. You are worthy of a good life filled with love, happiness and security.
Emiliya: It can be scary at the beginning to start talking about what happened but the journey is worth it in the end. You also need to have patience and when you work through your trauma it does not mean you will never think or sometimes feel grief about what happened to you. It means you learn how to handle it and so it does not affect your life or health in a negative way.
Jennie: I want to tell children and young people in the foster care system that it is okay to dream. I know it can feel far away and not for you, but we can also do it. We can also dream of traveling the world, of working at that dream job or of just dreaming that things will get better. And that it's okay to ask for help, it's okay to extend a hand. You don't have to manage everything by yourself.
What has been the most challenging moment in your entrepreneurial journey?
One of the challenges through Knas Hemma’s journey to become an independent youth organization has been in regards to creating a sustainable financial foundation and to grow in staff. We have so much to do and change and there are very big issues, and at the same time, we are a very small group of staff. Everyone has to work really hard to get our different projects and collaborations in place and at the same time, always seeking new support and funding for the upcoming year.
So, what keeps you going?
Knas Hemma’s superpowers are that we work so tightly together as a team. We know each other very well and we carry different skills and experiences. We are very creative, flexible and hard working people and we have a lot of patience and resilience. What unites us in Knas Hemma is our positive power to make a change and create stronger rights for care experienced children and youths in care today.
Do you have any advice to give to someone in the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey?
If you work to make change for a specific target group in society, then you have to engage the target group and make them a part of the problem solving.
This can be through their own voices and participation so that it becomes a community of lived experiences. Creating physical meetings and sharing stories is a key to engaging people and to share knowledge amongst one another.
Find our more about Knas Hemma: www.knashemma.se