The cornerstone of Norwegian Cultural Orientation programme’s (NORCO) Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) are its Cross-Cultural Facilitators (CCF), who reside in Norway and share similar cultural and linguistic backgrounds as the refugees. The CCFs have the experience of arriving in Norway and integrating into Norwegian society and are well situated to provide this training and to answer questions about life in Norway. The use of the refugees' native language as the medium of instruction supports effective learning and eliminates the need for interpreters.

One of IOM’s many indispensable CCF is Josef Hæier, originally hailing from Palestine. Born into a family with refugee status, Josef made his journey to Norway in 1991, where he eventually settled down with his family, including his wife and four sons. Residing in Arendal, a city in Agder county, Norway, with his family, he works as a teacher at the local school and actively engages in local politics. He leads the Arendal Immigrant Council and serves as a co-judge on the Immigration Board within the municipality.

Since 2014, Josef has been a dedicated CCF for IOM Norway. In this role, he takes on the vital responsibility of providing PDO to quota refugees preparing to journey to Norway. Since the programme’s establishment in 2003, over 23,000 refugees have benefited from the PDO, enabling them to make informed decisions and facilitate a smoother transition to Norway.

Josef’s unique background, rooted in the same language and cultural heritage as the participants that he trains, fosters a profound sense of trust, credibility, and role modeling. Josef emphasizes, "I share my personal experiences with the participants, leaving a lasting impression. Meeting individuals for the first time and guiding them over five days is simultaneously fascinating and challenging. They are in a state of anticipation, somewhat skeptical about transitioning to a new society. They grapple with life-altering decisions for themselves and their children, navigating through a mix of worry, confusion, and eagerness to understand the community they will soon call home."

Upon the completion of the five-day orientation, which involves training sessions on key topics, open dialogue, clarifications, and addressing numerous questions, participants express how the orientation significantly aids them in making informed decisions.

Josef notes that one of the most daunting tasks is correcting misinformation the beneficiaries have heard from friends, relatives, and media about Norway, a frequent occurrence among participants who have relocated to Norway or other European countries. He has observed that concerns about Norway's Child Welfare System often tops the list, with participants harboring the misconception that its primary function is to separate children from their parents, leading to considerable anxiety among parents. Drawing on his years of experience, Josef acknowledges, “It takes time and energy for a CCF to correct false news and rumors, and prepare them with correct information.”

Josef extends his informative role to children, adolescents, and adults alike. "Children and young people," he mentions, "are particularly curious about education. They inquire about school opportunities and whether they will be treated differently as refugee children. These questions sometimes make me emotional, as they remind me of my own background. Witnessing their dreams and hope for the future brings me immense joy. When I provide them information about children's rights and assure them that all children are treated equally in Norwegian schools, I see their faces light up with satisfaction. I cannot express in words the satisfaction I get at the end of these sessions!”

What is Pre-Departure Orientation?

Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) is a component of the Norwegian Culture Orientation Programme (NORCO) funded by The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi). The programme started in Norway in 2003 and since its establishment, over 23000 refugees have benefited from the Pre-Departure Orientation.

PDO is provided to quota refugees selected for resettlement in Norway, primarily in their first country of asylum before their departure to Norway. Children aged 8 to 12 receive 10 hours of orientation over two days, while teenagers aged 13 to 16 receive 15 hours of orientation spread across three days. Adult participants aged 17 and above undergo a comprehensive 25-hour orientation spanning five days.

The curriculum for adults includes crucial aspects necessary for successful resettlement in Norway, including an understanding of the country's climate, history, geography, housing, the educational system, healthcare services, and employment opportunities. There is a particular emphasis on the cultural norms and values of the Norwegian society to facilitate a smoother transition for the refugees.

Alongside that, the children's curriculum introduces young learners to the Norwegian school system, offers insights into the experiences of children and teenagers in Norway, and educates them about their rights. This educational approach is delivered through interactive activities, games, and playful engagement.

The aim of PDO is to support quota refugees with accurate information about Norway and help them prepare for resettlement and integration in Norwegian society.

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth