Since 2014, VELUX FONDEN and the foundation TrygFonden have co-funded the creation and development of fire cadet corps nationwide in Denmark.

A total of some 450 youngsters so far have trained to make an active contribution and assist citizens in distress. They have risen to the challenge, and have become an asset to their community.

Fire cadet training for school-age children helps to foster an interest in some of civil society's most important public services. Through smoke, fire and water, young people aged 10–18 across Denmark have built their skills in providing a vital and active service to others in distress. They have visited hospitals, put out minor fires, been trained to enter a burning building and responded to flooding events and other emergencies.

But just as importantly, they have become part of a team and community, and have developed both their social and vocational skills.  A number of the cadets have also shown an interest in progressing to their local volunteer fire and rescue service.


Short videos about the work of the fire cadets

Action – Activity – Appreciation

Helle Rabøl Hansen of the Danish School of Education evaluated the first two years of Fire Cadets Denmark. She concludes that the fire cadets' success comes down to three core components: Action, Activity and Appreciation. “There is a great appeal for school-age children in this opportunity to grapple with fire and water and provide a valued public service – in fact, a heroic service – and it's action-packed. Plus, this is a workplace that offers great camaraderie and meaningful vocational work.

The fire cadets are invited to join in, and assist adult fire and rescue workers. They do not just receive second-hand accounts of what goes on, but are actually involved in the real tasks of fighting fires and providing first aid.

The fire cadets have felt well received, and the relations between cadets and adult fire-fighters have been all-important. Adult appreciation matters to them, and they feel they have been taken seriously, and that they have been faced with requirements. In the event of any conflicts among them, they report that they were settled fairly,” says Helle Rabøl Hansen.

The youngsters become an asset to their community,” says Mayor Thomas Adelskov.

Valued by the community

Mayor of Odsherred, Thomas Adelskov, explains how the Fire Cadets Denmark project has created value for the youngsters, the fire brigade and local community alike.

“The youngsters benefit from the camaraderie and civic engagement, and this boosts their self-confidence. Some of them are struggling in school, but because they are now being taken seriously in a whole new setting, they suddenly have an important role. From a local community perspective, this is a way of gaining helping hands – volunteers who willingly respond to emergencies like floods and can rise to challenges where they make a vital contribution.

Boosting courage and sense of purpose among adolescents

Across Denmark, one added benefit has been a new camaraderie, civic engagement and sense of purpose for coming school-leavers. As a component of the standard fire cadet training, 11 youngsters from Odsherred received instruction in scaling ladders and smoke-diving. They have gained greater self-esteem from proving their abilities! And naturally, they have picked up the classic fire-fighter virtues of a firm handshake and good eye contact to reassure people in emergencies. 

In five videos – 'From Child to Fire-Fighter', we see 11 young people complete the entire fire cadet training, where, in addition to training in fire-fighting, they also visit hospitals and schools, etc

Popular instructor training

The steady stream of children and young people keen to learn and acquire new skills, naturally calls for certified instructors.
Back in 2014, Fire Cadets Denmark established a fire cadet instructor programme to equip fire-fighters to work with children and young people in the voluntary fire and rescue service. By 2017, there were 120 qualified fire cadet instructors nationwide in Denmark.

“Solid teaching skills are important because you have a responsibility when you open the door to all these youngsters. The cadets need to feel safe and secure, but the same goes for the fire-fighters. They need to have acquired educational skills, and know a bit about the target group they are dealing with, so they are equipped to handle the situations that might arise when working with young people – and especially in working with young people who are socially challenged,” says educational consultant Ronny Højgaard Larsen, a trainer on the fire cadet instructor programme.

From foundation-funded initiative to local authority adoption

The project is an example of a VELUX FONDEN initiative that has been adopted by several local authorities following their decision to continue the project and selffinance it for the future. This happened in 9 out of 11 projects. One example is Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, where the fire cadet training has been such a success that local-authority partners are now co-financing the project to ensure the survival of their local fire cadet corps.

The project is helping to give youngsters a boost in the right direction in terms of training, vocation and leisure interests,” says VELUX FONDEN's Executive Director, Ane Hendriksen. 

Innovative methods for developing practices

For VELUX FONDEN, Fire Cadets Denmark is an important project in the foundation's social grants area, where one component of the strategy is to assist in implementing and funding innovative and method-developing projects aimed at building or promoting constructive communities, social inclusion and active citizenship. 

“Fire Cadets Denmark has established this form of constructive community scheme, in which young people feel they count and are given responsibility. The youngsters learn to solve a relevant public-service task, and they experience civic engagement that gives them self-esteem, a sense of being appreciated and confidence in their own abilities. The project is helping to give youngsters a boost in the right direction in terms of training, vocation and leisure interests,” says VELUX FONDEN's Executive Director, Ane Hendriksen. 

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