A Drop in the Ocean at the Sigrid Congress

The sunset is colouring the sky blood red above Sandnessjøen this evening. A more beautiful nature is hard to find. The impressive mountains called De syv søstre (the seven sisters) are guarding the island of Alsta on the coast of Helgeland, Norway.

I have been blessed to be invited to speak at the Sigrid congress in this lovely town. Speaking about A Drop in the Ocean, how we started and all the wonderful people who made it possible is my favourite thing. To tell about all the 4500 volunteers from 60 countries, their contribution of 70.000 working days in refugee camps in Greece, and the bonds they make between them, make me humbled and proud.

But still, the most important message I want to give when I speak about our work, are the stories of the people who have fled their countries. They are people just like you and me, who left everything they had behind. They left their friends and families – not because they wanted to, but because they had to. They are strong people. They are great people. They are talented people.

And they keep coming. It is not over, just because media has lost interest. It is not over just because most big aid organization has left. It is not over, just because funding for aid programs is getting harder to get.

Another speaker at this congress was Petter “Uteligger” Nyquist. It struck me how much our stories had in common. We both ended up doing something we had limited knowledge about beforehand, and it totally changed our view upon groups of people, often looked at with fear and prejudice. For him it was about people living on the street. For me it was about refugees. It touched me deep in the heart to hear him telling about his days living on the streets of Oslo. How he got a particular eye contact with the children, when he was sitting on the ground, begging for money. How humiliating and painful it was when the parents realised that their children showed interest in the human Petter, and how they rushed to pull their kids away from the beggar Petter.

We are the ones who create the prejudice in our children. Either towards beggars or refugees. They adopt our behaviour. Do we want the next generation to become including and helpful, or do we want them to focus mostly on the colour of the sofa or the design of the wallpaper?

The medical doctor Jørgen Skavlan was the last speaker of the congress and he also touched this theme. Norway has been classed as the happiest nation of the world. A truly absurd title if you look at the criterias for happiness. They have absolutely nothing to do with happiness. Happiness is not to be found in the wallet!

Still, according to the UN living conditions survey, our country range among the top of the scale when it comes to living conditions. That gives us the best possibilities to help other people who are less lucky than we are. Having the opportunity to make a difference to other people, is truly the best gift, and can help us increase the feeling of happiness.

During the breaks at the congress there were plenty of time for good conversations. The congress participants showed interest regards volunteering and contributing in different ways, and we will arrange an information meeting for volunteers also in Sandnessjøen very soon. A big thank you to the arrangement committee and the master of ceremonies for their hospitality and a great congress!

If your local community has an event where you think someone from A drop in the Ocean should attend, please don`t hesitate to contact us!