“I couldn’t breathe – it was awful,” says Modou Bojang of his first winter in the northern Swedish city of Haparanda, where he has now been working at the Vardaga residential care home, Klippan, for many years.
Modou Bojang came to Sweden and Haparanda in 2005 where he started a family with his Swedish-Finnish wife. He laughs at the memories of his first winter when temperatures plunged to minus 35 degrees – a difference of around 70 degrees from the average daytime temperatures in his former homeland of Gambia.
“I just wanted to go home, but thought that if everyone else could survive, then I could too!”
In Gambia, Modou worked as an operating theatre assistant, so his entry into the Swedish healthcare system was largely straightforward. In Haparanda, he soon started to work at what is today Vardaga’s residential care home, Klippan, where there are 36 places divided among three wards.
“I think it’s fantastic to be able to work with people, despite not becoming a doctor, which was my childhood dream. But things don’t always turn out the way you expect, and you have to adapt to what happens to you in life.”
His work involves taking care of older people with conditions such as dementia. He doesn’t view them as being ill – he sees them primarily as people with different needs and wants.
“To me, it’s about making sure they have the best everyday life they can,” says Modou, adding:
“You must love the people you are helping through your work and not just carry out your tasks.”
He says he is very grateful that his work has helped him integrate into Swedish society and that we have older people to thank for everything they have done to build the country. In Gambia, the culture is still similar to what we had before in Sweden, and one which has certainly influenced his views on elderly care.
“In Gambia, we usually all live together and make sure that the older members of the family are alright,” says Moudou, adding that things in Gambia are developing in the same direction as they are here. Increasing numbers of people are well-educated and have jobs they have to do, so they no longer have time to take care of their older family members. But his view about our general responsibility for members of the older generation is unshakeable.
”We have a duty to take care of them.”