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Yesterday was the last day of “Verden i Skedsmo”, and keeping true to tradition, this was the day where we invited all the parents  to the school for a “Cultural Show” where they had the chance see everything the kids have been up to during their days at the camp.

We sung our self-composed camp song (based on Stella’s “Haba Haba”), danced traditional Line Dance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe”, and showed off all the stuff we had created, such as our plaster masks and painted t-shirts. We also gave the parents a slideshow of pictures from the week, and at the very end we served coffee and cakes (baked by the kids and burnt in the oven by the adults…haha).

For me, meeting the parents of these children was a very special experience. Most of them did not speak a lot of Norwegian, and some seemed very insecure and timid when they came through the door. At the same time, I could see the joy in their eyes when watching their kids having fun on stage, and many hugged us and shook our hands afterwards. I can imagine that coming from countries of turbulence and unrest, it must mean a lot for them to see their kids getting a chance of experiencing a safe and stable upbringing.

This week has been a true eye-opener for me. Not only in the sense that I have realized that I am actually quite good with kids, but that it has made me more engaged with questions of immigration and integration. As of January 2011, 12% of Norway’s population are immigrants. Unfortunately, unsuccessful efforts of integration have caused various social problems in Norway. Ghettoes are emerging, and there are schools in Oslo which are almost emptied of Norwegian children, because their parents move them to areas that are more ethnically Norwegian. I welcome diversity, but only on the terms that we are able to combat segregation. Integration is something both sides are obliged to work for, both the immigrants and the Norwegian government. (Especially the latter in the sense that we have military troops stationed in many of the refugees’ home countries through our participation in NATO). We read so much about refugees in the papers, but to actually meet them and look them in the eyes was a very special and touching experience. And to see their joy at seeing their kids up there on the stage with the Norwegian kids, I realized that we need more arenas for cultural exchange. Despite what many might think, most immigrants want to be integrated; however, they are just not given enough opportunities.