There are many student organizations in Volda, and no matter if you’re interested in sports, music, journalism, or photography, you will always find a way to fulfill your wishes. One group that we chose to join is RE:ACT, an organization which integrates refugees and gives them the chance to meet other people and to feel welcome in Norway and in society.
As Erasmus students, we didn’t only want to study abroad but also make new experiences, get to know people from all over the world, and broaden our horizon. When we first heard about RE:ACT, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to be a part of something that matters and that can help us to think outside the box. By becoming members, we didn’t only get the chance to discover the Norwegian culture but also some others which are really different from our own. We got the chance to talk to people who had to flee their home countries because of war, and it was stirring to hear their stories. Being volunteers showed us that spending time with others who didn’t have the same opportunities in life can emphasize how precious every day is, and we will definitely take all these experiences home with us and never forget all the important lessons we learned.
What is RE:ACT about?
RE:ACT is a student organization that aims at working against stereotypes and prejudices against other countries and cultures. The organization wants to create the space in which different cultures can meet, interact, and get to know each other better. As Gabriela, the leader of RE:ACT told us, RE:ACT focuses on cultural meetings and refugees, but the point is to be together and to build a community; that’s why everyone is welcome in the organization. Apart from Volda, RE:ACT has local organizations in Oslo, Bergen, Kristiansand, Haugesund, Trondheim, and even a sister organization in Mbale, Uganda. Different organizations as well as the UDI, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration financially support them. The money is then used for different activities that bring refugees closer to people their age and give volunteers like us the opportunity to make unique experiences together with people from all over the world - and by doing so, we can do our share in making the world a better place. There are plenty of activities, but we decided to mainly join the “mat & prat”, where it’s all about food and good conversations.
Food and Conversations
About twice a month, RE:ACT organizes cooking sessions open to all the volunteers and refugees. When someone has a recipe that they want to try out, they are assigned as “chefs” and are in charge of choosing a recipe and teaching everyone how to do it. When the meal is finished, we all sit together and share the food. For example, one night, two of the Syrian refugees taught us how to make Chawerma, a traditional Syrian dish. Some weeks ago, two of our fellow international students from the Netherlands introduced us to a dish from their own country: Stamppot. These nights are a great way to spend your evening, talking to people of different cultures and backgrounds and make new friends. We always enjoy these nights in good company, the atmosphere is really cheerful and relaxed - and even washing the dishes afterwards isn’t that bad as long as we do it together!
Every Thursday, women volunteers can go to the swimming pool and take part in the swimming class with women and children. The purpose is to help women to learn how to swim, and to give them the opportunity to be active. These sessions are supposed to take the participants’ minds off their everyday life and to give them some time to themselves.
The local volunteers also offer help with homework. We would have loved to be part of this as well, but since all the refugees start by learning Norwegian, we thought that our language skills are probably not good enough after six lessons of “Introduction to Norwegian Language”
To enjoy nature and discover the area, RE:ACT also arranges outdoor activities. For example, on Sunday, the 15th of October, there was a trip to the Valldal Climbing Park where participants could experience heights and adrenaline. For four hours, volunteers and refugees from Ulsteinvik and Volda enjoyed climbing the different courses and sliding down zip lines while some prepared a bonfire and cooked vegetable skewers.