Olá! Tudo bem? My name is Rebeca and I am from Brazil. From 2019 to 2020, I participated in the Connect program and was a student at Hald internasjonale skole. For six months, I have lived in a city in Norway called Stavanger. I want to tell a little about the time I worked there, in a project called Ukirke.
This time at Ukirke was very important for my growth as a world citizen, but I also see how my presence there (and of other previous Connect participants as well) was relevant for the project's development and had a positive impact in the local community.
Pioneer projetc in a prayer house
“Connect participants have helped running weekly activities, inviting new participants, helping organize the space, deliberating over future projects and, mainly, engaging in building a good and healthy community.”
Ukirke is a pioneer project located in downtown Stavanger, in an old reformed “bedehus” (an old building for Christian meetings). It started in August 2018 and since then it has hosted events and different activities with the purpose of engaging youth and young adults in fellowship from multicultural Stavanger. From 2018 until 2020, Ukirke has received Brazilian participants in the Connect project. They have helped running weekly activities, inviting new participants, helping organize the space, deliberating over future projects and, mainly, engaging in building a good and healthy community.
Among the different activities, I would say that Ukirke’s main weekly event was “Mat & Prat,” an event created for young adults where people could meet new and old friends for a good meal, play games or maybe have a lecture about world issues. The food was usually cooked by volunteers together with Connect participants, and the food often came from different countries. Actually, this is one of Ukirke’s most important features: being a welcoming space for people from all cultures, all beliefs, with different stories and experiences, coming together to share and positively impact its local community.
Impact on local community
This aspect was not just formally in Ukirke’s goals, but it could be seen everywhere by the fact that we, as Connect participants, were from another culture. Ukirke was turning into a safe place for sharing and discussing world issues through different points of view. This was never done in a “lectury” way, but by informal conversations, while having a meal together or while doing the dishes with volunteers. Everything was done in a friendly and community spirit, based on friendship and trust.
In fact, I don’t say that just by mere observations, but after researching Ukirke's impact on the local youth community, I concluded that participants that engage in events with opening for conversations have more opportunities for committing to more meaningful relationships. In fact, it was common to hear some participants mention how they felt part of Ukirke's community and that it would increase their general well-being through the week.
Safe space for people
“It was a group which aims to be a safe space for people from different backgrounds, respecting and using their differences for the growth of the whole Ukirke and for impacting other people in Stavanger.”
Somehow, I see that the Connect students' work at Ukirke was seen by its participants as motivation for being proactive in taking responsibility for the group’s growing and impact in the local community. Also, because Connect participants are part of the same age group as they who come to Ukirke, the people coming to Ukirke felt that they could also take part in the space’s maintenance and purposes.
All of these together contributed toward the project was the growing, and it had great results in reaching youth and young adults from downtown Stavanger. The result from the last two years of the project was a constant and engaged fellowship of students and teenagers. It was a group which aims to be a safe space for people from different backgrounds, respecting and using their differences for the growth of the whole Ukirke and for impacting other people in Stavanger.
Rebeca Lessmann Brazilian, participant in Connect Exchange Program