Today was my first day working at Stav School for “Verden i Skedsmo”, a summer camp both for children living at Norwegian refugee centres and for local Norwegian children. The children at the refugee centres have all come to Norway from different countries, some have been here for a while and attend school here, while others have just recently arrived and do not speak a lot of Norwegian. I am not familiar with the stories of all these kids, but I know that many, despite their young age, have rather turbulent and traumatizing pasts, and the insecurity of being in a stranger country also adds to this. This camp is therefore an opportunity for them to experience values such as friendship, unity and teamwork, and also to experience a sense of security in order to provide an upbringing that is as normal and stable as possible. It also offers a chance for Norwegian and non-Norwegian kids to bond, creating from an early age positive associations with cultural diversity.

Today was “Olympics Day”! The kids arrived at 9 am, and the first thing we did was to stand in a big circle and learn each other’s names:

After lunch it was time for today’s main activity – the Olympic relay race. We were divided into teams, Nora, Lars Jørun and me being in charge for the orange team, consisting of kids between 10-11. Although we did not win the race, we won for best cheer leading!

However, the most fun of all was to use us leaders as horses…

I have never had the opportunity to be around kids in my lifetime (having no younger siblings or younger cousins in Norway), and working with them is therefore a whole new experience for me. I will admit I was very unsure of myself and how I would handle this task, but I decided to just smile, take it as a challenge and throw myself into it – and it worked really well! However, although I can fool around with the kids, I also need to learn when and how to be strict when they do something that is not acceptable. But I saw a whole new side of myself today, and that was really rewarding.

I am feeling happy, but extremely exhausted. Lying in my bed trying to gain the strength to take the kids out for a 4 hour walk in the woods tomorrow…

Many kids are forced to live in rather spartan conditions at the refugee centres for an unfortunately long period, and it is important to keep them active and intellectually stimulated. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration has since 2006 received earmarked funds for activity initiatives for children in refugee centres, increasing from 4,8 million NOK in 2006 to 13,2 million NOK in 2010.