Monday 28 August 2006

An anticipated visit to Vollsmose

The last time Mary, with Frederik, was in Vollsmose was in July 2004 during their summer tour of Denmark following their wedding. This visit to Vollsmose will be very different, but Mary's popularity in Vollsmose was cemented during this visit two years ago.

A heads up for tomorrow. The problems of immigrants and refugees is very complex worldwide and there is no doubt one royal visit will not solve it all, but it is good to shine a light where social problems are being tackled. Crown Princess Mary is visiting the Odense suburb of Vollsmose to highlight the positive aspects of life in an area with a history of high crime and social problems. Mary and Frederik have been to this area before: on the summer cruise around Denmark after their wedding in 2004, but this visit is to see how Vollsmose gets on in day-to-day ways. Mary has been to Odense on many other occasions too, most recently to the Flower Festival last week. The idea is Mary's visit should be on an ordinary working day. A full schedule of meetings and visits has been organised and many Vollsmose locals are at the ready for their day with Mary so they can show off the good aspects of life in their neighbourhood.

Little Fatima Abdol Hamid, left, is at the ready to curtsy and present a bouquet to Mary to welcome her to Vollsmose says B.T.

There is a history of high crime in Vollsmose and the locals are keen to show there is another side to life in the area to break down stereotyped views. Mary will be visiting a number of areas in Vollsmose and is lunching with a local family who are originally Palestinian. The Jomaa family, right, say they are proud and not at all nervous about hosting the Crown Princess. Jawaher Othman, the mother of the household, is used to cooking for many as she has cooked at her kids' local high school. Jawaher's husband Kalil Jomaa confirms his wife is a very good cook and that Crown Princess Mary should look forward to lunch at the Jomaa home. Aseem Jomaa has been in the spotlight before, when he collaborated as a member of his rap band with some in the Odense Symphony Orchestra to create the Symphony of Vollsmose.

Right, 41-year-old Somali refugee and mother of four, Leyla Haji Yusuf will show Mary around Vollsmose. Leyla works as a health and social worker.

After Odense Mayor Jan Boye welcomes Mary, she will be guided by local woman Leyla Haji Yusuf who will take Mary around Vollsmose. During the morning they will visit a local school, the H.C. Anderson School, a mother and baby health centre, a women's project for self-supporting independence through training and jobs (in this case hairdressing) and a reception at Vollsmose Church, which is known for its diversity of members. A late lunch with the Jomaa family will follow.

In this article in Fyens Stiftstidende (in Danish) various expert commentators are asked what it means to Vollsmose to have Crown Princess Mary visit. All agree it is an acknowledgement and recognition, or respect, for an area which is often associated with problems by the wider Danish community. Specifically it puts Vollsmose in a new light for other residents of Odense because Mary is making a special effort to go to this one suburb in Odense which has suffered because of its reputation. One of the experts says people might think, "What is cool to Mary about Vollsmose is also cool to us" because of her popularity. Mary's visit will focus attention on the good works of residents, employees and project staff who are making a difference in Vollsmose. Through Mary's visit focusing on the positive developments in Vollsmose and having it broadcast to the whole of Denmark, it is something new, says another expert, which will help break down social prejudice and show the people are decent and hardworking just like other Danes.

Odense Kommune the Odense Council's published program for Mary's visit (in Danish)
Odense Kommune press release (in Danish) about Leyla Haji Yusuf, the 41-year-old mother who will be hostess to Mary in Vollsmose. Leyla left war-torn Somalia and originally went to Italy, but later arrived in Denmark in 1997, where she has raised her four children aged between 3 and 21 and has also pursued her own education and community-oriented career.
Fyens Stiftstidende article (in Danish) about a group of mothers Mary will meet.

Video clip from TV FYN (just over 2 mins) showing the Jomaa family at home. And, yes! Mr Jomaa is right. His wife's cooking does look good!

Some photos of the last visit to Vollsmose by Frederik and Mary:

A little background:
Denmark's royal couple put a new flavor in tour a 2004 account in English of the last visit.
Frederik and Mary visit Vollsmose ghetto 2004 in English from The Copenhagen Post.
(With thanks to Muhler, TheoDK, Emilia and Jema)

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