SÅPA, a brand-new car wash, has opened in Tønsberg, southern Norway. The facility, run by The Salvation Army, is a response to the ongoing challenge of how to integrate people back into society after spending time in prison, rehabilitation or following other periods of social exclusion. It provides training and employment for a number of staff who have experienced difficulties in their lives.
The name ‘Såpa’ – which translates as ‘the soap’ – is redolent of The Salvation Army’s motto in Norway: ‘soup, soap and salvation’. True to this holistic approach, Såpa seeks to provide an opportunity for people to engage in meaningful work, regardless of their past situation or their current mental or physical health.
Henning Wick, who had been in and out of rehab and jail for 20 years, is in charge of the day-to-day running of Såpa. He controls the pressure washer with precision and checks every car personally before it is driven off. Alongside the responsibility of the everyday running of the place, Henning is also an important role model for the other employees. ‘The only thing I demand of the others is that they don’t show up to work while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,’ he says. ‘If they happen to have a bad day, I send them home – but they are always welcome back. I, for one, understand the importance of a second chance.’
The Salvation Army in Norway is constantly looking for new ways of developing its work training programmes. Job training is a big part of the Salvation Army remedy for tackling social exclusion and poverty in Norway. Fretex, a fully-owned subsidiary of The Salvation Army, has become the biggest job training company in the country.
In Tønsberg, The Salvation Army is synonymous with innovation. By combining the forces of the corps (church) with the rehabilitation and recycling industry, the work has been revitalised and new opportunities for outreach made possible. The Salvation Army presence in the city goes beyond the local corps and thrift shop, and now includes a café, concert venue, bike workshop, textile production and print house as well as the new car wash. Every month the corps also moves its Sunday service into the concert venue, which has significantly increased participation from the local community compared with when the nearby church hall was used.
‘I highly recommend Såpa,’ says the Mayor of Tønsberg, Petter Berg. ‘I had the opportunity to test the facility and have my own car washed, and the result was wonderful. The Salvation Army is a respected organisation in our community and I am impressed by how they manage to create meaningful lives for people through work and activities.’