About forty asylum seekers and ten students got together at Talvirieha, an event held in Lukema on Wednesday. Various activities of the night included baking, eating traditional Finnish rice porridge and socializing and communicating in Finnish using picture cards. The event marked the start of a larger university project, which aims to help and improve the situation of asylum seekers by taking concrete measures.
‘The university has plenty of expertise which could be utilised and used to help people, especially given the current situation with the refugees,’ says Marketta Rantama and reminds that the third mission of the university, besides education and research, is making a social impact, and a project such as this provides an example of that.
Throughout the autumn Rantama contacted SPR (Finnish Red Cross), parishes and Settlement Puijola to find out how the university could help. Collaborative efforts started with donating bicycles, washing balls and men’s winter footwear among other things for the reception centres and emergency accommodation. Around fifty people signed up to volunteer recently.
‘The call for volunteers was a positive surprise. Many of the volunteers speak Arabic, for instance,’ says Rantama.
Sonja Haverinen andKristiina Kivilohkare, both organisers of Talvirieha, tell that the idea for the event had its inception at the department of social sciences, and Sanna Ryynänen, a senior lecturer in social pedagogy, was especially helpful in the beginning.
‘We thought of how to make the university and its students more prominent in our community and society. Other universities have had similar projects in the past and now we are looking to bring this type of activity to Eastern Finland,’ Haverinen and Kivilohkare remark.
Language group activities, which will support the more official Finnish language courses, will get going next year. There are also ideas of offering courses and studies on global issues for Finnish schools and workplaces. Sykettä, which offers sports services for students, will also participate in the project by providing sports facilities for the asylum seekers.
Those interested in the project may contact Marketta Rantama, firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also get involved by joining the Facebook group ‘Kuopion korkeakoulut yhteiskunnassa’ but the conversation is in finnish.
Anna-Reetta Suhonen, text and photo & Juho Suomalainen, translation