The Heroic Volunteers of the Norwegian People’s Aid
Imagine hiking up and down the beautiful mountains of northern Norway. It’s a sunny day and you’re enjoying the views, but then time slips away from you and the clouds suddenly roll in. You lose your way and the temperature drops. It’s dark, you’re hungry, you’re thirsty, and you’re cold.
During times like these, search and rescue volunteers, like Fred-Arne from the Norwegian People’s Aid, will answer the call and come to help. The Norwegian People’s Aid is on call every day, 24 hours a day. Who are these people who come to the rescue? What motivates them to sacrifice their time and efforts to help others?
If something happened to me on the mountains, I’d hope that somebody would come get me. So, why wouldn’t I be there to help others?
Volunteering to Keep People Safe
Volunteers like Fred-Arne have found a community of like minded people within The Norwegian People’s Aid (Norsk Folkehjelp/NFH). The Norwegian People’s Aid is often called upon to search for missing people with Alzheimers, suicide threats, lost hikers, or other unlucky adventurers. Every successful rescue stands in contrast to the death Fred-Arne’s seen throughout his life as a volunteer with NFH. As an experienced rescue worker, he said, “When you find people who are alive, it’s a good feeling. It’s a feeling that you’re doing something right. It’s probably the feeling we work for; it’s a part of why we do what we do.”
Fred-Arne, who is a carpenter by trade, did his first rescue at the age of 15 years old. His love for the mountains began at a young age, and he still loves to hike, ski, snowboard, and tour. His experience outdoors has given him a deep understanding of all the dangerous situations nature can put you in.
Shortly after beginning search and rescue at only 16, Fred-Arne found his first fatality. The victim was a boy only one year older than himself who had taken his own life in a gruesome way, out in the wilderness. The discovery was extremely troubling, yet since that time, he’s become case-hardened towards seeing death up close. As he calls it, he has an “open relationship with death.” Living around such beautiful yet treacherous terrain has its own dark side.
The stark reality is, the Norwegian People’s Aid is confronted with death and danger every time they go out on a call. Therefore, the reward that comes from helping people is that much more rewarding. And the motivation to help keep people safe is even greater.
Senja – Unpredictable Weather and Unknown Terrain.
Located deep within the Arctic Circle, the island of Senja is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Last year, 10,000 people had been to the top of Segla, the famous mountain peak on the island. With 660 meter drops straight down to the ocean and quickly changing ocean weather, it’s no wonder both tourists and locals can find themselves in precarious situations.
This paradise can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. Weather can change at the drop of a hat and temperatures may drop below -30° Celsius. People can get stranded in freezing temperatures without having the right equipment, clothing, food, or water. As Fred Arne says, “not everybody’s prepared for that.”
Fred-Arne remembers one unforgettable rescue when he and his team rescued 11 people from the Netherlands who were stranded in the cold. The temperatures had dropped to between 20-25 degrees below zero – Celsius, and the group was stranded in the wilderness. As they began to get frostbite, the travelers broke into a cabin to stay alive. Fred-Arne and his team came to the rescue. A helicopter team was able to retrieve three of the lost hikers, while the rest of the hikers were taken by snowmobile to Finland.
As Fred-Arne and his team drove their snowmobiles back from the rescue, the windchill made it feel like 85 degrees below zero – Celsius. As he drove by a lake, his clothes began to constrict his vision, so he took off his gloves to cover his face. He got frostbite that lasted for over a week. Despite this extreme cold, everybody survived the night, received treatment, and survived to explore again. Yet this experience stands out as an example of how ruthless nature can be when you’re not prepared.
Preparing for the Unpredictable
Despite his extreme commitment to search and rescue, it is a volunteer job. Fred-Arne not just a rescue volunteer, he is also a father and a carpenter. He spends his days on varying work sites and living a full life of his own. Yet through every step, he is always prepared to go out on a call.
In addition to regular training, Fred-Arne keeps a pack on hand with enough clothes, food, and water to survive for 24 hours. 24 hours is usually enough time for a rescue team to reach you and provide support. But, as Fred-Arne puts it, “You have to have clothes that you can use for everything… If I get stranded, I have to survive for 24 hours….I pack mainly water and a little bit of clothes and food.”
One pack with all the necessary gear for both personal survival and rescue in unpredictable conditions can’t have any extraneous stuff. So, we’ve made sure the gear we provide for the Norwegian People’s Aid has a minimalist, functional, and protective design. We’re proud to do anything we can to support heroes like Fred-Arne as they volunteer their time and expertise in an effort to help others. Read more about the Norwegian People’s Aid or learn how you can contribute.