“I can understand, and therefore I can manage to rise again and again” – quote Rein Alexander

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Rein Alexander receives a SAMM-gift “A cup of survival” from the SAMM project leaders May Olaug Horverak and Gerd Martina Langeland for a great contribution with consert and reflections on SAMM-evening

Text by Knut Erik Vikan

Photos by Helene Horverak

Thursday 14. October, a SAMM-evening was arranged at Fevik Strand Hotell, and the wellknown opera-singer Rein Alexander was hired to entertain. SAMM is a project run from Birkenes Learning Centre and Lillesand upper secondary school, and has received in total 6 million NOK in the period from 2017 when it started to 2021, when SAMM finished as a HBS-project (Health promoting Kindergartens and Schools). This evening was arranged as a “thanks” to all involved in the project, and to sum up the project and all developments and further plans.

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The evening started with a welcome speech, followed by dinner and desert. After the food, May Olaug Horverak and Gerd Martina Langeland presented the story of SAMM, thanked all contributors in the project, and handed out “cups of survival” as gifts to those who have participated in developing the project. Central leaders who have facilitated for the project to grow were also thanked, as Dag Gulbradnsen, former headmaster of Lillesand upper secondary school, Terje Bakken, leader of Birkenes Resource Centre, Eva-Kristin Paschen-Eriksen, leader of HBS. The evening was closed with a musical show by Rein Alexander, who also shared from his personal life experiences and reflections.

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What is really SAMM?

«SAMM is not me or May, it is a method everyone can use» – Gerd Martina Langeland

SAMM is also a project where Gerd Martina Langeland and May Olaug Horverak, in collaboration with a psychologist, have developed a five-step method, where one asks, what is important to me, what am I good at, what can be difficult, and what can I do about it? As Horverak points out, it is about giving students “this channel and opportunity to tell”. The students reflect both through discussions and individually in anonymous log books on what is good and what is difficult, and this gives the teacher a unique opportunity to find out how the climate is in class and how the students are feeling.

Though the presentation, it was made clear that SAMM does not end here. The project is close to an end as HBS-project, but the SAMM-method lives on and has greater potential. The book that was published this year has been positively received at universities, and there is great interest for the approach both nationally and internationally. In addition, SAMM continues in the municipalities with financial support from the county governor.

Some experiences from the project

The social worker at Lillesand adult learning centre, Kedir Diary, told the story from when he was in Iraq, and was interviewed about the project on Kurdish television. The reporter was interested in the method and how it could be used in schools in Iraq. This was just before the pandemic broke out, and everything closed down. In addition, Kedir told about how the method has been used in adult learning centres in relation to the topic of racism and discrimination, and he said that “this made a difference in our school, the enviroment improved after the seminar”.

The international potential in the SAMM-method was also emphasised when Toril Espegren, a teacher at Valstrand lower secondary school, told about her experience with the method in Peru. She has used the method in a primary school she and her husband are responsible for, and told about a boy in the sixth grade that said he would fin a solution to fix a ceiling fan. He wrote that “I will use what is in my head, my own intelligence”. This is a boy who lives in the poorest areas in the outskirts of the large city Arequipa. They do not have plenty of resources here, perhaps only themselves. Tor Espegren told us with enthusiasm about the method’s potential in Peru, and how well SAMM’s illustrations of mountains and stairs work there. She was clear that she is going back to Peru to work with the method again.

Elin Frisch Selås from Vegårshei primary school told about how she had used SAMM at another school previously to change negative behavior among the students. She said that “there was a noticeable change during few months”. She made it also clear that she was going to use the method in her new job. Hege Jaabæk from Engesland primary/secondary school told a moving story about how children as young as third grade express their feelings and show understanding and care for each other when the method is used. “It surprises me that they are so reflected this early”, says Jaabæk.

Consert with reflections on life

Rein Alexander also found parallels to the SAMM-message from his own life. He told about own fears and challenges related to life, and challenged also the audience to reflect on the large questions in life. He received good response from the room, and shared stories and thoughts concerning why it is so important with motivation and right focus.

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“I can destroy a performance just by thinking on consequences” (quote)

There was great atmosphere in the room, and people joined in sining, when the concert was ended by the Grand Prix-song from 2020 “One last time”, with a flame as we know from the show. When he was thanked for the show, he told us that this song has not been sung from a scene since Grand Prix, despite many requests. When he understood how important the song was for the hosts of this event, and how well the message in the song fitted the SAMM-project, he decided to agree to perform it.

What next in SAMM

The HBS-project that SAMM has been part of, has been led by Lillesand municipality, and has been financed by the Norwegian Directorate of Health and Agder county, and is part of the national programme for public health in Agder that ends in 2021. Still, the project SAMM continues in schools in 10 municipalities with financial support from the county governor to 2023. In addition another SAMM-project including a collaboration between refugee services and adult learning centres, supported by the Directorate of Integration and Diversity, may be prolonged in 2022.

In additon, the SAMM-project takes new routes. In the voluntary organisation Blue Cross Kristiansand, SAMM is combined with giving young people working experience in a project called CVidere. There is also plans to continue HBS Agder through a research project called HBS Instruments, where focus is to develop instruments to evaluate health promotion in schools and kindergartens, and SAMM is central also here.