Sunday, 30 March 2014

Finnish Train Travel with kids

We are just back from a lovely weekend in Tampere, Finland's third largest city, 40 mins away from here by train.  The train journey there and back was the highlight for my was just magic as the trains are double decker and have a separate play area for kids, complete with books, slides, a wooden castle and a sit-on toy train...
A cartoon cat is painted on the childrens compartment and animal footprints lead the way to the playroom. 
I think we will travel a lot at weekends simply for the pleasure of the journey.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Pääsiäismyyjäiset: Tervetuloa! - Easter Sale - Welcome!

Friday night here in Hameenlinna and I am shattered after surviving my first week on true Finnish style I spent the night in the sauna until I heard the cries of "mama" from Ameenah, my one year old daughter.  It is pretty daunting to undertake a placement in a different country with two under fives but I am loving it so far...
It has been extremely intense and as I am sure all my social work friends will agree, the first three days of the placement felt like three months.
I am working with an amazing group of service users so I feel very privelleged to be here and determined to make the most of this time.  I really feel like a part of Viisari already and want to help their service provision.
We are getting ready for an Easter Sale at the moment; Maria (pictured) has been working on this Shaker style rug for the last few days and this will be available for sale at Viisari on April 9th from 10am-5pm.  Also available will be a range of handcrafted ragrugs, felted products, ceramics and woven rugs.

Tomorrow morning we are headed to Tampere, Finland's third largest city which is only 40 minutes by train from here.  Apparently the trains are double-decker with a childrens playroom and slide on the top deck....childrens provision is incredible in Finland.  One thing though ... all Finnish children appear exceptionally quiet.  I am really aware at the moment of how loud we are when we're walking around the supermarket/library/downtown...what is the secret Finnish parents?  My children don't stop from six in the morning until evening time....

Thursday, 27 March 2014

SXSW (2013) The Punk Syndrome Trailer 1 - Pertti Kurikka Documentary HD

Time to sleep here in Finland.  Above is a trailer for one of the best documentaries I have seen in a long while about Finnish punk band .Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät.  Exciting news about them coming soon xx

European Action Week Against Racism: Hameenlinna


At the ARX art school for kids, Africa Day, as part of the European Week against Racism

Our first week here was spent at a number of music and art events to celebrate the European Action Week Against Racism.  We went to a one event at the Tourist Office/ Kela (Social Insurance Institution of Finland/Benefits office) in the city centre and a kids African arts and music day at the fantastic ARX cultural centre for children.

Immigrant services here strike me as comprehensive/ really well organised/ non-bureaucratic, with a mixture of statutory services and the Third Sector.  Free Finnish language classes are offered on a continual basis to all immigrants and are advertised everywhere in a range of languages.  As 'immigrants' ourselves we are entitled to free translation services when dealing with officialdom. 

Hameenlinna has a small population of only 66,829 and in 2011 the city had around 2000 inhabitants whose first language was not Finnish.  The main groups of immigrants are from Somalia, Russia, Estonia and Sweden...

With the rise in popularity of the True Finn party, and constant distortion of the facts about asylum seekers/immigrants/migration in the right-wing press these events are all the more necessary.   I wonder what changes in European attitudes to asylum/migration my two daughters, Malika and Ameenah, who are half-Morroccan will see in their lifetime?  I have heard some pretty questionable comments about North-Africans in Finland and read stories in the Helsinki Times about racism towards the sizable Muslim population so unfortunately these weeks against racism must keep going for now...

I plan to go to the third sector organisation called Settlementi in the morning to find out more about these issues as they are running a once a month, multicultural café for mums and babies...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Viisari: Postcards 1

I have been on placement for two days at Viisari, a resource centre for adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues.  Here are some impressions so far of the Finnish handicrafts that are produced here...

Postcards from Hameenlinna: 1

 Our neighbourhood Idänpää is full of old wooden brightly coloured houses like this and modern glass, super-insulated apartments like the one we live in, with forest all around.

Amazing art-school/theatre/cinema/immigration centre on our side of town on the banks of the River Vanajavesi.

Between two great cities.

The ARX is a joint base for producers and consumers of children's culture in Hameenlinna.  Fab.
 Jean Sibelius was born in 1865 in Hamennlinna; he was hugely inspired by mythology and the forests at the heart of Finnishness and his overtly political 1899 Finlandia symphony became a powerful symbol of the Finnish struggle for independence.
Malika rocking todays charity shop find, a top by the iconic finnish design company Marrimekko xx

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Interview with Irja Piispanen, Lutheran Priest...

I have now started my work placement in Viisari, which is a resource centre for adults with learning disability and mental health issues, in Hameenlinna, a small city one hour north of Helsinki. 
This morning I met a visiting priest, Irja Piispanen, who had come to the centre to talk with some of the service users.  I have been quite surprised at the close work of social services and the church that I have seen so far in Finland so I thought I would have a chat with Irja to find out more....
I am Irja Piispanen and I am from a small town called Nastola, near Hameenlinna.  I only work with clients with disability, both adults and children and trained to do this after my religious studies at university.

What do you do at Viisari?
When I come to Viisari I go and chat with the client and if someone wants to talk to me alone they can.  This morning I spoke to one client for over an hour about her problems so I took on a counselling role.  We can offer prayer but of course I will ask if it is ok.  Normally they will say yes.

Do you come to Viisari often?
Now I only come a few times a year.  It's not enough!  However quite a few people from here go to the church in Hameenlinna.

Is this normal for the church to work alongside social services in Finland?
Yes, it's normal.  There are priests trained up to work specifically with clients with disability.  I must find ways to meet those clients but the social workers are very open to us. 

What do you think of services for adults with disability in Finland?
Today in Finland they want to stop this kind of centre.  (Viisari is a traditional buildings based centre)  In Lahti, (a nearby city) for example they are going to stop this kind of place.  Instead they want to give activities at home or find employment.  However I feel we need these kinds of houses.  The work they are doing here is real work.  The weaving they do here is real work.  I'm not sure we can find enough work for these clients outside places like Viisari. 
IN the past there were large 'hospitals'/ institutions where adults with disability lived together and these were normally in a forest.  The clients could go outside by themselves.  Now that the clients live in cities it is difficult for them to go out alone. 
I have just been with a young man of 35 who confessed to me that when he lived in an institution he came home to his 'family.'  Now that he is living alone in a city he said that he comes home from work and no-one says hello.  He really is alone in his flat.

Do you think that foundations like Viisari will need to work more with other third sector places in the future?
Yes.  In the future in Finland we must find ways to work with other groups, we must find other methods.  It's a pity that Finland is richer than before but at the same time the money we are getting from the government to work with these people is getting lesser and lesser.

What are the current social problems in Finland?
The biggest social problems are arising from the fact that while the rich get richer, the poor are getting poorer.  It's the same all over Europe.  Even though some of the social democratics are in power there are too many of the Kokkmus (right wing) in power also.  Our government decided yesterday to make a huge healthcare reform.  RIght now each town has to take care of the sick and in the future the reform will mean this is scaled back to five districts managing healthcare in the whole of Finland. 
Today there are a lot of people who need food in Finland, instead of getting a bag of food here you get a ticket to use in the shops. 
One of the biggest problems still is alcohol abuse.  Alcohol politics - I would like to change this!

Tell me a little about females in Finnish Society...
Well in Finland it was '88 or '89 when we got the first female priests in the Lutheran church.  It's been over twenty years now and most people think it's okay.  However in the Orthodox and Catholic churches there is no talk of female priests! 
I studied religious studies alongside male priests although when I graduated I couldn't become a priest at that time.  Initially I taught religion in schools. 
Then I trained to be a priest when my children were older....My husband is a priest also so he was away from home a lot. 

However....Generally now in Finalnd we are equal with men although it's often on the news that for every euro men make in Finland, women make 80 cents.  IN the church we get the same salary. 

Here is a link to a story in the Helsinki Times on the health care reforms that Irja spoke of....

Monday, 24 March 2014

Kamppi Chapel of Silence, Helsinki: Mental Health Services in the heart of Helsinki

The silent chapel, Kamppil has to rate as my favourite building so far in Helsinki.  It is in the centre of Helsinki in one of the main squares called Narinkka square; it offers a space of retreat and encounter daily from early morning until late in the evening.  The chapel is not meant for congregational services or ceremonies although staff members of the Helsinki city congregations and social services will be available for conversation. The sense of calm will instead be supported by having small-scale gatherings.  It is also known as the "Chapel of Silence" since it is intended to be a place to calm down and have a moment of silence in one of the busiest areas in Finland.
The chapel is operated on a partnership basis by the Helsinki Parish Union and the Social Services Department of the City of Helsinki, while the parish unions of the neighbouring cities of Espoo and Vantaa also participate in the chapel's activities.

The chapel was constructed as a part of the World Design Capital program in 2012. It was designed by architects Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen of K2S Architects Ltd., and won the International Architecture Awards in 2010.

This gorgeous tactile chapel offers social services in the heart of the Finnish capital and recognises the need that many of us may require mental health services at some point in our lives.  Excellent social services in Finland this far...