Monday, 7 April 2014

Social services in Lapland

Just off the night-train from Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, twelve hours north of Hameenlinna.  We had an amazing trip and visited Santa Claus village, took a reindeer safari through the forests and frozen lakes and went on a midnight safari to see the Northern Lights.  We went with two hardcore explorers one of whom was taking his 15th trip since January.  When they saw us arriving at the tour HQ with Malika and Ameenah they did not look impressed but I think they quickly realised we were tough and up to the challenge of hiking and looking for the lights.  The whole night was incredible, we travelled for an hour outside Rovaniemi and travelled up the mountainside by snowmobile to a cosy wooden tipee where we could hang out while waiting for the lights.
The Northern lights were incredible and we saw a really rare phenomena called a Corona as well as the dancing Northern Lights. In Finnish, the name for the aurora borealis is "Revontulet", which literally translated means "Fox Fires." The name comes from an ancient Finnish myth, a beast fable, in which the lights were caused by a magical fox sweeping his tail across the snow spraying it up into the sky.

When we arrived back at the hotel at 4am with Malika and Amneenah we got some odd looks from the receptionists...Ameenah who is 18 months was the youngest child that has ever been on the tour.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in the Artikum museum of Lapland which was housed in a fabulous building designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto .....There was a range of brilliant child-friendly exhibitions on the science of the Northern Lights, the effects global warming is having on the Artic region, and exhibits on the Sami culture....

In this harsh climate how do social services adapt and rise to the challenge of providing services in an area that is under deep snow for over six months of the year?

This morning I found this interesting report on recent research conducted by the University of Lapland which summarises that the Sami People of Lapland need more social and health services.  The Sami people are less satisfied than average with social and health services and their availability.  Only slightly over one third (38%) believe that their social services are good. 
During my time in Rovaniemi I realized how harsh the living conditions are for the Sami people....when we visited one reindeer farm, the owner told us that her nearest neighbour was over 60km away and that they are under snow cover for over six months of the year.  Global warming is effecting the Artic more rapidly than other areas and has had a devastating effect on reindeer husbandy, the livelihood of so many families in the Artic area. 

The 1995 Finnish constitution guaranteed the Sami people the right to their own language and culture and although the 2010 Health Care Act guarantees Sami speakers the right to use Sami language when using healthcare services further development is needed for childrens services, older people and rehabilitation services.  Long distances and poor public transport are major factors in the respondent's lack of satisfaction. 

Below is a link to the report...



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