Refugee children become fire cadets in Skjern

A new initiative in Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality gives refugee children the opportunity to become fire cadets. The first training team is in full swing. Every other Tuesday 14 refugee boys from Skjern get a break from school, when they visit Beredskabsgården in Ringkøbing and receive training to become fire cadets.

It was the project manager for the fire cadets in Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality, Bent Nielsen, who had the idea of a fire cadet team for refugees."I knew we had some refugee children in our community, and as we have been offering fire cadet courses for Danish children for many years, it struck me that we could make a team for refugees as part of the integration effort".

"With the grant for the project "Fire cadets in Denmark" VELUX FONDEN wish to motivate more young people from a number of the country's social housing areas to be part of a fire cadet corps. The young people will be trained in values such as courage, respect, solidarity and discipline. Through their participation in a fire cadet corps, we hope that they will be motivated and inspired in relation to education and future employment, "says director of VELUX FONDEN, Ane Hendriksen.

Interpreters help the participants communicate

In the nationwide fire cadet project, that is part of the Danish Emergency Management, the young people are educated in the firefighting profession. The course for the children is organised in the same way as the general fire cadet program in Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality, but spans over a longer period as the children participate in the course twice a month.

The boys in the fire cadet team come from Kirkeskolen in Skjern. The boys have an interpreter with them when they attend the course at Beredskabsgården, so that the language barrier does not hinder their understanding of the tasks.

"It´s very positive to see how well it works. The interpreters help the children when the language gets a little too challenging, and at the same time the interpreters keep track of the troops during transport between Skjern and Ringkøbing," says Bent Nielsen.

The team has two teachers who from the beginning were very aware of the fact that several of the boys could suffer from war trauma from their home countries. The majority of the 14 boys are refugees from Syria.

"However this has not been a problem. They are immensely kind, dedicated and disciplined - yes, they are actually more engaged than some of our teams of Danish teenagers", says Bent Nielsen.

Recruiting for the voluntary emergency management

”The purpose of the fire cadet training course is to ensure the best possible integration of the children and their families,” says Bent Nielsen. However, they also hope that a few of the boys will be interested in a life as a firefighter.

"We have provided the fire cadet courses for many years in this municipality and  usually a few of the cadets will continue and take part in the tasks of the voluntary emergency management. I hope that some of the boys in the refugee team will continue as well", says Bent Nielsen. "We plan to invite the parents for a show later on in the training process. Maybe some of them would find it interesting and participate in the voluntary emergency management as well". 

Fire cadets in Denmark will receive support by VELUX FONDEN and TrygFonden from 2014 to 2017. The plan is to train 550 fire cadets - young people under 18 - over the next three years.