Visita de Noruega

(Scroll down for English version)

La semana pasada teníamos el placer de recibir nuestro jefe de Cruz Roja Noruega, Juma, y mostrarle nuestra querida ciudad Cúcuta, y los compañeros en la seccional. El día en que llegó había una ceremonia de graduación por los voluntarios nuevos. Depsués de 6 meses en entranamiento ya hacen parte de la gran familia de la Cruz Roja. Felicitaciones! Si quieres saber cómo ser voluntario de la Cruz Roja Colombiana, seccional Norte de Santander, pulsa aqui.


The past week we had the pleasure to have our boss from Norway visiting us, Juma, and to introduce him to our beloved city and friends here. The day he arrived we brought him to a ceremony for the new volunteers. After 6 months of training and hard work, they are finally a part of the Red Cross Family - congratulations! If you'd like to know more about becoming a volunteer in the Norwegian Red Cross, press here.

¡Gracias, Cali!

(Scroll down for English translation)

El seccional Valle de Cauca nos invitó a su campamiento de liderazgo, y con gran motivación fuimos por allá para realizar nuestro taller de comunicación no-violenta por los voluntarios y dirigentes participando.

Fue un placer conocer los cruz rojistas caleños, y los que vinieron de otros seccionales.

Muchísimas gracias al seccional por recibirnos, y a todos los participantes por tomar parte en nuestro taller. Nos sentimos muy afortunados haberles conocido, y por la oportunidad de conocer su ciudad.

Thank you, Cali!

The Red Cross section of Valle de Cauca invited us to their leadership training camp, to hold our non-violent communication workshop.  With great motivation, we flew to Cali to train volunteers and leaders in this topic.

It was a great pleasure to get to know our colleagues in Cali, and everyone who flew in from different sections.

A big thank you to Red Cross Valle de Cauca for having us, and to all of the participants for taking your engagement and participation. We feel very fortunate for the chance of getting to know you and your city.

Weekend trip in Ocaña

This past weekend we went to the municipality of Ocaña, Norte de Santander, a four-hour drive from Cúcuta. Our mission was to introduce our sexual health campaign, with the help of one of the volunteers involved, and to capacitate the Ocaña volunteers in non-violent communication for them to, in turn, capacitate their own groups and communities. 

Our free time we spent in the beautiful outskirts of Ocaña; Ábrego, and in the Estoraques, a national park in the small town of La Playa de Belén. 



Fin de semana en Ocaña

El fin de semana pasado fuimos al municipio de Ocaña, Norte de Santander. Nuestra misión fue introducir la campaña de salud sexual acompañado de una de las voluntarias involucradas, y capacitar los voluntarios de Ocaña en comunicación no-violenta, para que ellos a su vez puedan capacitar sus grupos y comunidades.

Nuestro tiempo libre pasamos en los paisajes bonitos en las afueras de Ocaña; Ábrego, y en los Estoraques, un parque nacional ubicado en el municipio de La Playa de Belén. 

Fruits of Colombia

One of the perks of living in tropical Cúcuta is the accessibility of delicious, exotic fruits! Fruits we’d never heard of nor seen in Norway. On every street corner, you find fruit carts selling pineapple, mango, papaya and other more or less familiar fruits. As great as this is, nothing is like picking your own mango straight from the tree in your office, or when someone comes into the office offering us fruit from one of the many fruit trees here in the city. Not only is there fruit to be found everywhere, it is also the juiciest, most delicious fruit, matured naturally without conservatives in the sun, as opposed to the fruit shipped in containers to Norway.

Here’s a little guide to some of our favorites:



The city streets of Cúcuta are bountiful with this little fruit, called mamón. These were picked right outside our office, in the center of Cúcuta, on a quite heavily trafficked street. Luckily, thanks to it's thick, inedible shell you can pick them right from the sidewalk and eat. There's not a whole lot of flesh on the berry, as it has a big nut-like core. The taste is mild, sweet and fresh, with a consistency similar to lychee or grape.



This vibrant, orange deliciousness is a zapote. A coconut-sized berry, with a truly unique taste. It's very mild, similar to cantaloupe, but sweeter. The texture of the flesh is creamy, soft and a little bit stringy, similar to mango. The zapote also has a big, hard, inedible core, like the mango, and is equally difficult to eat without making a mess. 



Now this is a favorite! You're looking at a granadilla, the sweeter cousin of passion fruit (which, in Colombia comes in the same shape). The fruit is virtually weightless, with it's porous outer shell and small, edible seeds inside. The seeds are covered in gooey flesh, where all the flavor is. The taste is difficult to explain; it has some of the sourness of passion fruit, but the dominant flavor is mild, sweet and with a hint of flowers. There's no good way of eating this fruit. The shell is really difficult to cut with a knife, but easily cracks open by the force of your hands, so just crack it open and suck out the flesh and the seeds. For those more refined than us, one could also use a spoon. 

Christina gazing at the mango tree outside the office window

Christina gazing at the mango tree outside the office window

Mango is of course familiar to all of us. In Colombia though, you find different types of mangos, and they're also eaten differently. The green ones in the picture are harder and more sour. These are typically eaten with salt and lime, and sometimes sweetened with honey. Yellow/red mangos are softer and sweeter than the green ones, and eaten as is. Mango is in fact the most eaten fruit in the world, which might be surprising to Norwegians, as it's still somewhat exotic in Norway, but after being in Colombia and seeing how abundant it is, and how much of it people eat, it makes perfect sense.

Sexual and reproductive health – a supplement to the public school system in Cúcuta

Por español, desplazarte hacia abajo

Sexuality and sexual education is a delicate topic in Colombia. Recently, lawmakers proposed implementing sexual education as a mandatory part of the public school system’s syllabus, but the proposal didn’t go through. Therefore, the practice remains the same as before; sexual education is only mandatory in higher education (Norwegian videregående and higher), and it is up to each colegio (grunnskole) how they treat this topic, resulting in great differences in knowledge among adolescents.

As our final product here in Cúcuta, we are developing a campaign regarding sexual and reproductive health, to offer to public schools here in the city. We wanted to contribute to increasing the knowledge around this topic, as teenage pregnancy is a big challenge in Colombia. Here, one out of five girls go through their first pregnancy before the age of 19. Also, because sexuality is more of a taboo here than in Norway, and not talked about as openly, a lot of teens and young people believe in myths rather than facts.

A team of volunteers from all groups of the Colombian Red Cross will carry out the activity, teaching students 7th grade and up about sexuality and identity, reproduction, respect, sexual responsibility and choices, through activities, lessons and material handed out.

We’re still in the start-up phase of our project, and will keep you posted as we progress. Meanwhile, we recommend you click on the link below and read more about the challenges Colombia is facing regarding teen pregnancy.

The Lancet, Tackling teenage pregnancy in Colombia (April 2015)

Salud sexual y reproductiva – un suplemento a la Sistema Nacional de Educación

Sexualidad y educación sexual son temas delicados en Colombia. Recientemente, había un sugerencia del Colectivo Sin Embarazos en Adolescentes para implementar educación sexual obligatoria en los colegios, pero la resolución no fue apoyada. Resulta que la práctica sigue siendo el mismo; depende de cada colegio como tratan el tema de salud sexual y reproductiva, y que educación sexual solo es obligatorio por nivel bachillerato y educación superior. Como consecuencia de eso, el conocimiento entre los adolescentes se diferencia mucho.

Nuestro proyecto final será una campaña que se trata de salud sexual y reproductiva, para ofrecerla a colegios públicos en Cúcuta. Queríamos contribuir al aumento de conocimiento sobre este tema, ya que embarazo en la adolescencia es un gran reto para Colombia. Una de cada cinco niñas experimenta su primer embarazo antes de 19 años. Además, porque sexualidad todavía es un tema delicado y no tanto hablado, muchas jóvenes creen en los mitos en vez de los hechos.

Un equipo de voluntarios de todas las agrupaciones de Cruz Roja Colombiana realizará la actividad, enseñando a estudiantes de grado 7 y arriba sobre sexualidad y identidad, reproducción, el respeto, responsabilidad sexual y decisiones, a través charlas, ejercicios y materia entregada.

Todavía estamos en el inicio de esta campaña, y les actualizamos cuando avanzamos.  Mientras tanto, les recomendamos hacer click del enlace, para leer más sobre los desafíos que se enfrenta Colombia con respecto a embarazos adolescentes (en inglés).

The Lancet, Tackling teenage pregnancy in Colombia (April 2015)

Colombian cuisine

Colombia is a very diverse country, and so is the local cuisine as well. In every part of the country, they have their own unique dishes. Some are local specialties, others are popular all over the country and even being enjoyed in neighbouring countries. The Colombian cuisine is a mix of Spanish, indigenous, African and Arabic culture.

To share with you this diverse cuisine, quite different from the Norwegian one, we’ve made a list of 10 things to eat in Colombia:

1.      Bandeja Paisa

Maybe the most famous Colombian dish, Bandeja Paisa originates from the region of Antioquia. It is a mix of rice, beans, ground beef or steak, chorizo, chicharron (pork rind), arepa, avocado, fried egg and morchilla (blood sausage). Everybody seems to make this dish a bit different, but the main ingredients are the same.

Bandeja paisa. Popular dish and hangover cure.

Bandeja paisa. Popular dish and hangover cure.

2.      Arepa

All over Colombia, this is a classic side dish. It looks like an American pancake, but its made with corn flour and is salty. It’s common to eat after work, as Colombians eat their main meal (almuerzo) at midday. Then they often eat it relleno (filled) with cheese, avocado, chicken, meat, or a speciality from the coast: fried egg. Arepas are eaten primarily in Colombia, Venezuela and Panama, where it's a staple food eaten nearly daily, and comes in a myriad of varieties.

3.      Tamales

Tamales consists of meat, chicken or vegetables covered in a corn dough wrapped in banana leaves and then cooked. The different regions have their own tamal. This is also a very popular Christmas dish.



4.      Mute

The most iconic dish from Norte de Santander. This dish, which is a stew of cow intestines, meat, corn, pasta, potatoes and vegetables, is very popular in Cùcuta where we live. This dish is sold only on Sundays, and they almost always sell out, so here it first come first serve that counts.

5.      Cheese and….

Colombians love cheese, and to mix it with everything. So far we have been offered cheese on cookies, cheese on ice cream, cheese and bocadillo (a candy made of fruit) and cheese in hot chocolate! In our local mall you have to specify no cheese if you don’t want cheese on you ice cream.    

Bocadillo with cheese

Bocadillo with cheese

6.      Sancocho

Is another traditional dish in Colombia. It is a stew, similar to Norwegian “lapskaus”, made of a meat or fish and big pieces of potato, plantain and corn. This food is popular for big parties with lots of mouths to feed. The dish is common in many Latin American countries, but originates from the Canary islands and was brought here with the slaves.

7.      Ajiaco

This is another popular soup from Bogotá and surrounding areas, containing chicken, potatoes and corn. It is served with capers, avocado, sour cream and rice on the side for you to add to your liking. Again, different regions make it differently, but most famous is the Ajiaco Santafereño.

8.      Lechona

This dish is typical of the Tolima area, which is to the west of Bogota. However, it is served in speciality restaurants throughout Colombia. Certainly if you are in the Tolima area, you’ll see lechona at any kind of special occasion. Lechona consists of a whole roast pig, stuffed with rice, peas, onions and a fragrant combination of spices and then cooked in a clay oven for up to ten hours.

9.      Buñuelos

The Colombian buñuelos are similar to the Norwegian ¨bolle¨. But, there are some significant differences; the buñuelo dough includes lots of soft cheese and they are deep fried. This energy bomb, is very common to buy from street vendors or in small kiosks. This treat can be enjoyed as a breakfast, a snack or accompanying other traditional dishes such as natill (a Colombian pudding prepared for Christmas)

10.  Arroz con coco

Rice with coconut is a dish from the costal regions. This dish is popular in both the pacific region as well as the Caribbean. Rice and grated coconut is boiled in coconut water or milk, and served as a side dish like regular rice. Delicious! 

Classic fried fish, served with coconut rice and patacones (chips of plantain) 

Classic fried fish, served with coconut rice and patacones (chips of plantain) 


Despazarte hacia abajo por el blog en Español

The last weekend we were invited to Bogotá to assist in a Street Mediation workshop facilitated by the other youth delegates in Colombia, Sara and Ana. The 16 hours workshop was held by Christina and William, a former youth delegate, as they are both certified Street Mediation instructors. While Sara, Ana, and Fredrik facilitated, participated and documented the workshop. The group of participants, youth volunteers within the Red Cross movement, where very engaged and interested in the subject. We are proud to announce that everybody passed the final test, and are now certified mediators.

During the weekend, we also visited one of the most popular tourist attraction in Bogotá; the Monserrate. The mountain ranges above the south parts of the city and the church from the 1500th century on the top (3152 meters above sea level) is a very important pilgrim goal. The recent time, it’s becoming more popular as a tourist attraction for the incredible view over the city, but they still have church services every Sunday.

The view from the Monserrate 

The view from the Monserrate 

It was very refreshing to us, being in the big city and getting a change of scenery. The cooler climate and western vibe gave us a little taste of home. Although this being our second time in Bogotá, we still feel a bit lost, as the city is huge! In fact, it’s the 11th biggest capital in the world. The city has experienced a tremendous growth the last 60 years; in 1950 the population was 670 000, 60 years later it reached 8 000 000! Much of this is due to the great number of people displaced by the war moving to the city, and urbanization in general. It’s varied demography and interesting story makes Bogotá a very fascinating city, but of course, such a large population and rapid growth causes some challenges as well, poverty and crime are existent challenges, but the city has come a long way since the more violent 90’s and is now a desired tourist destination. Use your common sense and follow advice from the locals, and Bogotá is just as safe as any other big city, and one of the most beautiful ones we’ve seen!


El fin de semana pasado estuvimos invitados a Bogotá para asistir haciendo el taller de mediación de calle, facilitado por las otras delegadas Sara y Ana. El taller de 16 horas estuvo realizado por Christina y Willian, el delegado de juventud anterior, ya que ambos son instructores certificados de mediación de calle. Sara, Ana y Fredrik estuvieron facilitando, participando y documentando el taller. Los participantes, voluntarios de juventud en la seccional Cundinamarca, estuvieron dedicados e interesados en el tema, y estamos orgullosos de anunciar que todos pasaron la prueba final, y ya están mediadores certificados. Durante el fin de semana visitamos uno de los más visitados lugares turísticos en Bogotá; Monserrate. La montaña, ubicada en el sur de la ciudad, se extiende 3152 metros sobre el nivel del mar y en la cima hay una iglesia del siglo XV, una destinación importante de los peregrinos. En los últimos tiempos se está convirtiendo una destinación turística, por la vista increíble, aunque todavía tiene misa todos los domingos.

10 fun facts (part 2)

Okay, so now that we’ve been here in Colombia for quite some time, we have come to realize that our «10 interesting things”-list that we posted a while back was way too short. Therefore, here comes part two (probably of many more to come):

1)     Colombians truly love soda, and it seems as if their affection is towards soda in general. When ordering it, they simply ask for gaseosa (soda), and rarely specify what type they prefer. Soda is soda, right?



2) Etiquette is important in Colombia, but some gestures can be hard to get a hold on. For example, some people, mostly women, substitute shaking hands with holding forearms. It took quite a while before we understood that this was a custom, and not just an awkward handshake-gone-wrong situation.

3.     Colombians, especially Colombian women, do not hesitate to change their bodies if they’re not satisfied. According to sources, only four other countries worldwide perform more cosmetic procedures than Colombia.  This is also reflected on clothing store mannequins, who are voluptuous so say the least.

Colombian mannequin

Colombian mannequin

4.     Traffic in Colombia is crazy! Of course, there are traffic laws, but the locals more or less practice their own laws. Honking is a great way of getting right of way, greeting people you know, giving attention to an attractive person or for whatever cause you feel like. Motorcycles or bicycles are by far the most practical vehicles to get around by. In Bogotá for instance, going by car 10 km, can easily take you an hour or more, as the streets are jam-packed most of the day.

5.     No credit on your phone? No problem! On every street corner, you can pay to use someone’s cellphone to make personal calls. Very practical, as prepaid plans are the preferred cellular plan here and you easily run out of minutes, as calling is expensive.

Typical colombian phone stand

Typical colombian phone stand

6.     Hot tip – always carry toilet paper! Many public bathrooms do not provide toilet paper, and those who do usually have toilet paper outside the stall itself, on the wall next to the sinks.

7.     Here, as in many places around the globe, pointing your finger is considered rude. Colombians solved this by creating a new gesture – pointing with your lips. Simply pout your lips in the direction you seek attention to, and everyone will understand it as pointing.

...Over there ... 

...Over there ... 


8.     You can get anything delivered to your house; groceries, movies, pharmaceuticals, drinks… you name it. If your store/restaurant doesn’t have a delivery system, you can use an independent domicilio (home deliverer) who will go to the store for you and bring you whatever your heart desires directly to your door.


9.     You can buy anything on the street! As mentioned above, traffic here is often very slow, permitting street vendors time to sell their products at any given street or intersection. Anything from food and beverages to board games and laundry baskets - literally anything!

10.  Manicures and pedicures are very cheap here, and it seems, practically mandatory for women. What’s surprising is that it’s just as common amongst men to get their nails done. Whilst women usually prefer colorful nails with patterns and figures, men usually go for a more modest expression, simply a coat of transparent polish, for sparkle and a fresh look.


As voluntarism is not only a Red Cross principle, but also a key pillar of the Movement, making ourselves visible in hopes of recruiting new volunteers is an important task. Today was spent doing exactly that. Uniformed and well visible we spent the morning in one of Cúcuta’s many parks, handing out information on the work of Cruz Roja Colombiana, and spreading awareness regarding the activities and possibilities Crus Roja, Norte de Santander has to offer. A very grateful job, as Colombians are very appreciative, and enjoy being approached on the streets. A big difference from Norway, where most people shy away from anything handed out on the streets.


Haciéndonos visibles

Ya que voluntariado no solo es uno de los principios de Cruz Roja, pero también es un pilar fundamental del Movimiento, haciéndonos visibles para reclutar nuevos voluntarios es una tarea importante. El día de hoy pasamos haciendo exacto esto; uniformados y bien visibles pasamos la mañana en uno de los muchos parques que tiene Cúcuta, entregando información sobre el trabajo de Cruz Roja Colombiana, y difundiendo conciencia los actividades y posibilidades que ofrece Cruz Roja, Norte de Santander. Un trabajo muy agradecido, puesto que colombianos son muy agradecidos a gente que les acerca en la calle. Un gran diferencia de Noruega, donde la mayoría se aleja cualquier cosa distribuido en la calle. 



New year, new opportunities

After a long break celebrating Christmas with family and friends, we’re back in Cúcuta and have picked up where we left off. As we are about half way in our mission, our focus for this time being will be writing our diagnostics report and developing workshops for the youth volunteers. As new recruits are coming in, it’s important that what we develop here is sustainable, and something the existing volunteers can transfer to the new generation volunteers, as we go back to Norway. As we started a non-violent communication workshop in December, our plan now is to train volunteers in the methodology, so that they in turn can train remaining and new volunteers.  Our first two instructors will be trained and ready for the task by the beginning of next month, hopefully the first two of many to come. 

The first youth meeting in 2016

The first youth meeting in 2016

Nuevo año, nuevos oportunidades

Después un descanso largo, celebrando la navidad con la familia y amigos, estamos nuevamente en Cúcuta, y hemos re-empezado nuestro trabajo. Pues que ya estamos a medio camino de nuestra misión, el enfoque por está temporada estará escribiendo nuestro informe diagnóstico y desarrollar talleres para los voluntarios juveniles. Puesto que vienen nuevos voluntarios, es importante a desarrollar talleres sostenibles, que pueden transferir los voluntarios que existen hasta nuevos generaciones de voluntarios. Nosotros tuvimos el taller de comunicación no violenta en diciembre, el plan para ahora es a entrenar voluntarios en la metodología, para ellos a enseñar los demás voluntarios y voluntarios nuevos.  Nuestro primeros dos instructores estarán entrenados y listos para la tarea en el comienza del próximo mes, los primeros instructores de muchos esperamos.

Meeting with the coordinators.

Meeting with the coordinators.


We have been living here in Cucúta for three full months, and are now entering a new and exiting year. To celebrate the occasion, we are posting a summary of our blogs from 2015!

Happy New Year everyone!


Ya llevamos en Cucúta, tres meses vividos, y ahora empezamos un nuevo año. Para celebrar esta ocasión, publicamos un resumen de todos los blogs del 2015.

¡Feliz año a todos!

Workshop Camp And Community Activities

This weekend, the youth group in Norte de Santander had the honor of hosting a weekend long workshop camp in the outskirts of Cúcuta, to train volunteers towards becoming instructors in the programs of PAL (Outdoor program) and Recreación. Volunteers from the districts of Cundinamarca, Antioquia and Valle de Cauca joined in to strengthen their knowledge and abilities regarding the two programs. Also joining us was Sara, the youth delegate from Norway working in Cundinamarca.

Since neither of us youth delegates are training to become instructors, like the other volunteers were, we got to go attend both of the parallel workshops, and learned great new exercises and activities for youths, as well as practical skills to survive, like to set up a camp in the wilderness.

Finalizing the camp was a trust building exercise; a midnight hike with eyes covered, before heading out for community work the following day.

Read more about the programs PAL and Recreation below the photos.


PAL – Programa Aire Libre

PAL (Outdoor program) is one of the seven programs in the youth section of Colombian Red Cross. Focusing on creating methodological strategies for taking care of the environment, promoting a healthy lifestyle and disaster prevention, through camping and working outdoors.


The recreation program promotes development, rest and fun, primarily through activities, games and energizers, with the goal of supporting the recovery of the social fabrics of vulnerable communities, as a part of the humanitarian action of the Colombian Red Cross.


World AIDS day

(For English, scroll down)

Ayer era el Día Mundial de Lucha contra VIH/SIDA, un día marcado el 1 de diciembre, cada año hace 1988, para crear conciencia sobre la pandemia de VIH/SIDA. Nos unimos con los coordinadores y participantes en el Proyecto Mundial VIH, para salir a las calles y difundir el conocimiento dando abrazos, condones e información sobre donde tomar la prueba, como se transmite el virus, y también muy importante como no se transmite. La campaña este año tiene su objeto disminuir la ignorancia sobre la transmisión del síndrome. Vestimos en camisetas diciendo “Yo tengo VIH, ¿me darías un abrazo?” nuestro mensaje era claro; dar un abrazo a alguien infectado del virus no te infecta. Además, distribuíamos calcomanías con información, ya que muchas personas creen que el virus se transmite de ciertas formas la cuales son falsas; hacerse amigo, besarse, compartirse comida o compartirse una ducha con una persona viviendo con VIH.

Era muy interesante ver las respuestas de la gente; la mayoría eran contentos de abrazarnos y eran bastante informados sobre cómo se transmite y cómo no se transmite VIH, mientras otras eran más escépticos. Algunas incluso nos negaron un abrazo, destacando la importancia de este trabajo de información.

Proyecto Fondo Mundial VIH es un proyecto financiado por El Fondo Mundial, una organización de financiación internacional, apoyando programas luchando VIH, SIDA, tuberculosis y malaria mundialmente. Lea más sobre El Fondo Mundial acá y sobre el proyecto de la Cruz Roja acá

Yesterday was world AIDS day; assigned to December 1st every year since 1988 to create awareness of the HIV/AIDS-pandemic. Together with a project called Proyecto Fondo Mundial VIH (Global fund HIV project), we took to the streets to help spread awareness by handing out hugs, condoms and information on where you can get tested, how you can get infected, and also very importantly – what will not cause the virus to transfer. This year’s campaign aimed at eliminating ignorance regarding transmission of the disease. Wearing t-shirts saying, “I have HIV, will you give me a hug?” our message was clear; hugging someone infected with the virus will not infect you. We also handed out stickers naming other things sometimes thought to transmit the virus that are false; befriending, kissing, sharing food or showering with an HIV-positive person.

It was very interesting seeing people responses; most were happy to hug us, and were quite informed as to how HIV/AIDS transmits and not, whereas others were more skeptical. Some even denied us hugs, stressing the importance of this information work.

Proyecto Fondo Mundial VIH is a project funded by The Global Fund, an international financing organization, funding programs fighting HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide. Read more about The Global Fund here, and the Colombian Red Cross’ project here


Nonviolent communication workshop

Last weekend we held our first workshop with the coordinators from the various Colombian Red Cross Youth programs, on non-violent communication. The coordinators agreed on this topic last week in a meeting we held, as they believed that this was the most important and urgent area to strengthen.

Therefore, we planned and executed a workshop about nonviolent communication that we held for the coordinators, based on the methodology and exercises from Street Mediation. The content from this course will be used by the coordinators to teach the rest of the youth volunteers. 

Since it was our first workshop in Colombia, we were a bit nervous to see if we met with the coordinators' and the cultural expectations. Our Spanish teacher very helpful and offered for us to practice our workshop with her beforehand. Being local she could also help us with cultural adjustments where needed.

The language can still be challenging, and at times poses difficulties, but the participants were very interested in the topic and were very active during the workshop. We were very satisfied with the result and are eager to see the coordinators hold this workshop for the rest out the Youth section.

Following are some more pictures form the event:

¡ENV – 2015!

Norte de Santander represented!

Norte de Santander represented!

Desde el momento qué llegamos a Colombia, nuestro compañeros en Cruz Roja han estado contando los días hacia el Encuentro Nacional de Voluntariado (ENV), y por fin el pasado jueves 29 de octubre fue el tiempo para ir a Barranquilla, 12 horas por bus de Cúcuta, pero llegamos.

Durante cuatro días de evento, atendemos talleres y presentaciones sobre varios temas relevantes de nuestro trabajo en Cruz Roja Colombiana, éste es un espacio donde conocimos varios voluntarios de Colombia, pero desafortunadamente, por temas logísticos, no logramos participar en el trabajo comunitario, ya que el contexto del sitio era un barrio deprimido en la Ciudad de Barranquilla y que por tiempo no se logró hacer la actividad prevista, pero no fue motivo para no seguir disfrutando de este Encuentro Nacional.

Aparte de los talleres previstos en la agenda, la programación también contenía una noche de gala y noche de carnaval, en la cual todos los departamentos mostraron sus propias culturas a través de música y el baile. Una maravillosa experiencia, y una buena manera para nosotros a aprender más sobre todas las culturas y las tradiciones diferentes en este País.

En conjunto, Barranquilla fue sorprendente, estamos muy agradecidos por la oportunidad de formar parte de esta experiencia. ¡Gracias a Cruz Roja Colombiana y a la Seccional Atlántico por este gran evento, además, estamos agradecidos a esta maravillosa Seccional Norte de Santander por un súper paseo con la compañía de un poco más de 100 voluntarios! 


Since arriving in Colombia, our coworkers in Colombian Red Cross have been counting down the days to the Encuentro Nacional de Voluntariado (ENV), or the National Volunteer Meeting, and past Thursday, it was finally time for the big event.

The ENV is a bi-annual event for all volunteers and employees throughout the country. The three-day event serves to strengthen ties between the different departments and local branches of the movement, to exchange experiences, and to gain more knowledge on relevant topics. This year’s event was hosted by the district Atlántico in the city of Barranquilla, located on the Caribbean coast, a 12-hour bus ride from Cúcuta.

During this four-day event, we got to attend workshops and presentations, touching on different topics relevant to our work in the Red Cross, and to know other Red Crossers from all over the country. Unfortunately, because of logistical difficulties, we didn’t get to participate in the community work being done in one of Barranquilla’s more challenged boroughs.

Community health in the neighborhood  el Bosque.

Community health in the neighborhood el Bosque.

Besides workshops and more formal learning experiences, the program also contained a gala night and a carnival night, where all the different departments in Colombia showed their unique culture through song and dance, truly an amazing experience, and a great way for us to learn more about all the different cultures and traditions in the country.

The queen of the Carnival arriving.

Overall, Barranquilla was amazing, and are very grateful for being able to take part in the experience! Thank you to Cruz Roja Colombiana for this great event, and to the best department – Norte de Santander – for a great trip!

Colombian Red Cross’ work with refugees and deportees.

Por español desplázate hacia abajo en la pantalla

As you might know, Colombia and Venezuela share a border stretching over 2000 km, and a similar history of the Spanish Empire and Gran Colombia. Still, diplomatic relations between the two countries have evolved to be one characterized by difficulties. Most recently, the closing of important border crossings, and the deportation of over a thousand Colombians living in Venezuela. Several thousands have also fled back to their native country more or less voluntarily. Cúcuta, Norte de Santander, where we live and work, is located on the one of these borders, thus, it has been an important city in managing the situation.

The last temporary shelter in Cúcuta.

The last temporary shelter in Cúcuta.

Alongside other organizations and governmental institutions, the Colombian Red Cross has been coordinating temporary shelters for thousands of refugees and deportees. At the moment, the Colombian Red Cross are in charge of administrating the entire operation. Volunteers and employees from all over the country have been coming to the district to assist with the crisis, hard work executed with great commitment. The shelters are fully staffed 24 hours a day, and has been so for more than 50 days.

The psycho social team arranging an activity.

The psycho social team arranging an activity.

At the shelters, the deportees are provided three meals a day, health services – physical and psychosocial, access to shower and washing facilities, and most importantly; a safe place to stay and sleep.

From what we’ve heard, Norwegian news sources do not mention the crisis that has been going on here, to our surprise. We recommend those of you who wishes to learn more about the ongoing situation to check out these links:

Photo gallery /

Venezuela-Colombia migrant crisis /

Humanitarian snapshot / UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),

El trabajo de Cruz Roja con refugiados y deportados

Como ustedes sabrán, Colombia y Venezuela comparten un límite territorial de 2.219 kilómetros que separa a los dos países, y tienen una historia similar desde la colonización española hasta la Gran Colombia. Aun así, las relaciones diplomáticas han evolucionado con el transcurso de los años hasta llegar a un conflicto diplomático. Lo más reciente, es el cierre de la frontera entre los dos países, y la deportación de miles de colombianos que residían en el vecino país Venezuela. Además, los colombianos han regresado a su país de origen más o menos voluntariamente. Cúcuta, Norte de Santander, donde vivimos y trabajamos está ubicada en una de estas fronteras más grande, y ha sido líder en el manejo de la emergencia.

Junto a otras organizaciones e instituciones gubernamentales, La Cruz Roja Colombiana ha sido coordinadora de diferentes albergues temporales donde se encuentran miles de refugiados y deportados. En este momento, La Cruz Roja Colombiana se encuentra a cargo de la administración del único albergue que permanece en operación.  Voluntarios y empleados de La Cruz Roja Colombiana de todo el país han venido colaborando en la emergencia, es un duro trabajo, ejecutado con gran compromiso. En los albergues permanece todo el personal logístico de Cruz Roja Colombiana 24 horas al día, y ha sido así por más de 60 días.

En los albergues, los deportados y refugiados son previstos de tres comidas al día, servicios de salud, apoyo psicosocial, acceso a duchas, unidades sanitarias, lavaderos, y lo más importante; un lugar seguro para permanecer y dormir.

Ver nuestras fotos del trabajo aquí.

Month of coexistence/ Mes de la conviviencia

Here in Colombia some of the months have a theme, and October is the month of coexistence. At Cruz Roja Norte de Santander, and in several other districts, the start of this month was marked with a gathering where we lit a candlelight to represent a culture of peace and coexistence.

El último viernes tuvimos una reunión con funcionarios y voluntarios para mostrar el mes de convivencia por una cultura de paz y sin violencia. Aquí tenemos algunas fotos de la reunión en la que sellamos el inicio del mes.





¡Noche noruega!

Last Friday, we invited volunteers and employees from the entire district of Norte de Santander to a Norwegian night, to introduce them to ourselves, our country and our culture. The venue was set to the city's public library, which we decorated with posters with pictures and facts about Norway and Norwegian words and phrases. We also held a presentation (our very first official presentation in Spanish) about ourselves and the exchange program we are a part of. Of course, we also had to introduce our co-workers to the Norwegian cuisine, and had prepared typical Norwegian dishes. Presented in the form of a koldtbord, our guests got to try lakserull (smoked salmon rolled in a type of tortilla), scrambled eggs and risengrynsgrøt  (rice porridge with a hidden almond in it, a Norwegian Christmas custom. Whoever gets the almond wins a treat), with bread and fruit on the side. As karaoke always is a hit here in Colombia, we ended the night with some Norwegian sing-along songs, and games typical of our independence day - sekkeløp and potetløp. We had a great time, and hope all our guests did as well. Check out the pictures below!

En viernes pasado, recibimos una cordial invitación de los voluntarios y los funcionarios de toda la Seccional de Norte de Santander a una actividad llamada Noche Noruega, para darles a conocer la cultura de nuestro país. El evento se llevo a cabo en las instalaciones de la biblioteca pública Julio Pérez Ferrero, donde se decoró las paredes con carteles con fotos, hechos, palabras y frases noruegas. Además, se hizo una presentación (nuestra primera presentación oficial en español) sobre nosotros mismos y el programa del intercambio donde somos participantes. Por supuesto, se dio la degustación de gastronómica de la cocina noruega, preparado platos típicos de nuestro país. Presentado en estilo de koldtbord, nuestros invitados pudieron degustar lakserull (salmón ahumado enrollado en una tipica de tortilla normalmente elaborada en masa de papa), huevos revueltos y arroz con leche noruego (con una almendra oculta, un costumbre de navidad en Noruega. Quien encuentra la almendra se gana un regalo), con pan y frutas aparte. Y terminamos la noche con karaoke en noruego, y algunos juegos típicos de nuestra día de independencia – sekkeløp y potetløp. Compartimos un momento muy agradable y esperamos que nuestros invitados también lo tuvieron. ¡Echa un vistazo a las fotos de abajo!