"Active in the Land of the Midnight Sun"
ARSP Volunteers in Norway

Fourteen Action Reconciliation Service for Peace volunteers are currently working in three regions of Norway: in the north (Hammerfest and Evenskjer), in central Norway (Ekne and Oslo) and in the south (Andebu and Moi). The ARSP branch office is located in Oslo.

ARSP’s volunteers in the northermost European project country work in care for older people, and in homes and day centres for physically and mentally challenged children, adolescents and adults. They also work in projects for socially disadvantaged children and adolescents. The so-called Folkehogskolen are another focal point: boarding schools for disabled and – as the Norwegians say – normally disabled adolescents. Volunteers working in these institutions usually focus on the organisation of leisure activities. Thus they have many opportunities for developing their own ideas and acquiring new skills. Creativity and individual initiative has no borders, as leisure education is a well-established field in Norway, and well equipped with extensive resources.

Resistance and Encounters

Just one year after the 1958 Action Reconciliation Service for Peace appeal, the organisation began working in Norway. ARSP volunteers realised two construction projects in the north of the country: a small restaurant at the Trastad Gaard home for handicapped people and a church in Kokelv/Finnmark. Pastor Gilleberg, then the director of Trastad Gaard, wrote the following about these projects: “It was a fiery idealism. And this idealism allowed Action to succeed. In 1959, there was considerable hostility towards the Germans, as the first group of volunteers found out. I know for certain that Action and what it achieved here amounted to a silent reconciliation.”

The Norwegian population had suffered enormously under the occupation that followed the German invasion of 1940. The German air force’s raids on Norway’s major cities, the deportation of almost the entire Jewish population to extermination camps and the scorched earth tactics the German military applied wherever armed resistance flared up – e.g. in the Finnmark region in northern Norway – shaped Norwegian public opinion for decades. Moreover, the Norwegian resistance disposed of a broad social base: there were not just political groups, but also organised athletes, teachers, lawyers and active Protestants.

In the mid-1960s, the construction projects led to new contacts and new fields of activity. Social work became a special focal point of ARSP’s work in Norway. ARSP volunteers have since worked in the field of social welfare – dealing directly with the people who were judged “unfit to live” and threatened with annihilation under National Socialism.

In 2009, ARSP celebrated the 50th anniversary of its work in Norway. Many project partners, former volunteers and new friends joined in the celebration. To this day, ARSP’s work in Norway is characterised by the continuity that results from longstanding project partnerships. ARSP’s work in Norway receives strong support from a Norwegian circle of friends, ARSP Venner.

Norway is part of ARSP’s international programme for volunteers from Germany.