I am so glad, I saved a refugee!! This has been the climax of my stay in Norway so far. I had a busy weekend and somehow I feel tired. It all started on Friday as l headed home, at the NRK reception I meet this beautiful woman whom I share some few minutes with and get to find out why she is at the NRK offices.
She has a radio interview at 4.30pm to explain what will be happening on Sunday, 24th October. She tells me about refugees plight and why Norway has made a huge initiative to make it a National campaign that Refugees need help.
She tells me that NRK has been in the forefront for this worthy cause and this is an annually event that was initiated by the Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC in 1974, when a total sum of 23 million Norwegian currency was raised. This has seen a great raise and awareness if the current figures is anything to by. Last year CARE Norway collected a total of 192 million Norwegian Currency. (multiply this by 12 to get it into Kenyan currency.)
NRC is the recipient of this year´s National Telethon. It provides assistance, protection and durable solutions to refugees from war and conflicts. The funds raised through The Telethon will be used for camp management, distribution of food and emergency equipment, shelter, education and legal assistance.
After a short explanation she asks. “ Would you like to participate in this years event?” She elaborates all that I need is to go from one house to another collecting cash, however I shouldn´t be afraid because it´s a public event that all Norwegians know about and are always willing to give.
As i think about it, it scares me knocking at Norwegians doors due to my little knowledge of the language. I explain that I only speak little Norsk, just the basics, so I ponder on how to communicate, keeping in mind that most Norwegians are not comfortable with English.
She suggests that I could either get a Norwegian friend who knows the streets around, it will make the work easy for me. With enough information and a motivation to help a refugee, I assure her that am willing to participate and that I will get in touch with some of my girlfriends and see how it goes.
On my way home, I call one of my girlfriends, Solveig Omland, a lecturer at the Gimlekollen School of Communication and Journalism and inquire whether she will be willing to take me around. “Oh Patience, am sorry will not be in Kristiansand on Sunday, will be visiting my grandmother and will not be back at the specified time. I am so happy you volunteered to participate, I will talk to my housemate and see if she will be willing to go with you. I will get back to you before tomorrow.” She responded.
I was assured to always trust Norwegians, they keep their word. As I expected, the following day Solveig calls me to confirm that her housemate Liv Wendel, a nurse at a Kristiansand Hospital had volunteered to take me around, and therefore she expected a confirmation from me with the details.
Sunday morning as I prepare to go to church, I receive at text with the details on where to meet and at what time. The text has come from TV Aksjonen 2010. It reads….Takk for at du har meldt gedsom bossebaerer. Kan du melde deg I Domkirkens menighetshus I dag ca 14.45. Mvh. Raymond. (Simply translated as: Thankyou for volunteering to participate in TV Action. Can you enroll in the Cathedral Parish at approximately 14.45. Regards. Raymond.) I forward the same to Liv and take my phone with me to church so as to ask a friend to confirm about the directions on the meeting point. After a powerful service, I head home for lunch and at exactly 14.43, my housemate Annet and I, are at Cathedral.
We look around and we cannot see anyone checking in for enrolment. We get concerned but I convince her, we are at the right place and we are on time. This is an open area, quite a number of people are moving around so I get my phone and we agree we could show the text to a couple that was strolling, with their baby on the baby wagon. With a wide smile and lots of innocence I come close and ask the lady,
“Hei, do you speak English?” Even before I could finish my sentence…..
“No, and neither do we have the time.” She responded.
“Takk.” (Thanks) I respond and walk away so down. I looked at them and wondered why they were so nasty to me.
“I am so hurt,” I confided to Annet. “How come she did not know English and she responded in English, how ironic. Maybe she thought you were interested in her hubby so she wasn´t going to give you time to talk to her,” Annet said.
We laughed about it as I consoled myself, “I am going to ask again, we are getting late now.” A few miles away we see this man coming and I wait for him, keeping my distance and with a broad smile I tell him we are here to participate in this TV action, however we seem lost and it past the scheduled time. He is so nice to us and he volunteers to take us behind the church at a room where we find other participants ready for action.
Liv is excited to see us. We register, a quick process, we are given identifications, badge, map on where to go and a flask like tins ready to go for “begging”. This feels so strange, African women in the richest country in the World going from one door to another “begging”. Nice one! I have never done this before and here I was, with mixed feelings about it. I am scared of the rejection and am just hoping it turns out to be a success.
Liv assures us it is an annual event that all Norwegians know about and from past experiences, people have given generously. I am the first to put my note, just to bless my tin. At exactly 3pm, we head to our route, with the guide from the map. It feels so nice, am so happy as well as so scared of what is about to happen. We finally get to our first building and we ring the bell. In Norway, the bells have speakers so you can talk to your visitors and allow them in or decide not to. It´s a building with 8 apartments, and we wait for response.
“Hallo” a mans voice responds.
“Hei Jeg kommer fra TV aksjonen Flyktninghjelpen. Vil Du Stotte TV Aksjonen, ´Pa flukt Fra Krig”.( Hei I come from TV Action, Refugee Help. Will you like to help TV Action, fleeing from War?) said Liv.
He responds in Norsk, “Bare en liten er på vei dit,” which means….just a minute am on my way there. In a while he is at the door and his neighbours follow suit. More and more positive response come, and we are happy. Even those who were not in a position to give, at least were so good and said not today. In the houses that we could not get response we put notes just to ask them to volunteer by sending their contribution to the number on the note. Our assignment took about two hours, and finally we were done ready to return our tins to the enrolment centre.
Statistics has it that 43.2 million people were displaced when the 2009 went over in 2010, the highest number in this millennium. 27.1 million of them were refugees in their own country, an increase of one million from the year before.
War troubled Sudan has long been the country with the most internal refugees, and they are also top this year, with almost five million refugees in their own country. But Colombia is beginning to catch up with the Sudan of the statistics.
Countries with the most internally displaced persons:
Sudan 4.9 million
• Colombia 3.3 million
• Iraq 2.8 million
• DR Congo 1.9 million
• Somalia 1.5 million
Asylum seekers to Norway in 2009 were 17,226.
Within me, I feel so happy that I did participate in a worthy cause. I toured Kristiansand for two hours, met these happy faces and very generous people, I am soooo happy and touched.