Building social networks for young refugees in Norway

To prevent marginalisation and polarisation, the H&M Foundation runs a project with The Norwegian Red Cross to connect young refugees with Norwegian youth and support their integration into the Norwegian society.

Since 2014, 7,750 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in Norway. Research shows that unaccompanied minors are a particularly vulnerable group who are exposed to psychological stress as they are separated from their families. They are also exposed to traumatic experiences before, during and after their flight from their home country and many suffer from post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression and anxiety. The minors also often experience feelings of loneliness, lack of meaning in life and of being a part of a meaningful social context. This creates a feeling of passivity and of loss of control over their own lives.

Currently, an identified humanitarian need in the Norwegian society, is to create social inclusion and a sense of belonging to young refugees.

— Trine Munkvold Lindset, National Project coordinator Refugee Buddy

The Red Cross has especially identified the need for activities where young refugees can meet people their own age, activities where they get a chance to build their own social networks, practice speaking Norwegian and experience a mutual cultural understanding between themselves and Norwegian youth.

Creating friendship

The H&M Foundation has had a partnership with the Norwegian Red Cross since 2016 and so far 1,000 people have been reached. The objective for Refugee Buddy (Flyktningkompis) is to contribute to young refugees getting Norwegian friends. A Norwegian friend can mean more for a refugees’ integration than all other integration efforts taken on by government and society. Through a Norwegian friend, the young refugees can get a unique possibility to get a social network where they live, to learn about and understand Norwegian culture, and to practice the Norwegian language. When new connections are made across cultures, these help to break down prejudices and skepticism, thereby strengthening social cohesion.

“Currently, an identified humanitarian need in the Norwegian society, is to create social inclusion and a sense of belonging to young refugees. The Norwegian Red Cross Youth is happy to work together with the H&M Foundation in the project Refugee Buddy to address this need. The project aims to have a significant positive impact in the long-term for the young refugees and for the Norwegian society as such”, says Trine Munkvold Lindset, National Project coordinator for Refugee Buddy.

Expected outcome

400

young refugees and asylum seekers have been included as participants in Refugee Buddy groups and activities with Norwegian peers.

800

Norwegian youth have been engaged as volunteers in Refugee Buddy groups and activities with refugee peers.


  • Total donation: 6 million Swedish krona
  • People reached by 2019: 1,200
  • Partners: The Norwegian Red Cross

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From boredom to a social life

The Refugee Buddy project by Red Cross Youth in Norway has led to a positive change for the girls at Ålesund Red Cross. Life has gone from boredom to a more social one with friends and activities, which make their integration in their new country much easier.