Fifteen languages spoken in International Club

Tarja Hemmilä ja Aini Koivula
Tarja Hemmilä ja Aini Koivula
Tarja Hemmilä ja Aini Koivula
Elina Uusi-Illikainen

The Finnish Red Cross helps refugees to integrate in their new hometown. In Pudasjärvi in northern Finland the local International Club has quickly become a popular meeting place.

  • ·  Vapaaehtoiset pakolaistyössä on Suomen Punaisen Ristin 2,5-vuotinen valtakunnallinen hanke, jota rahoittaa Euroopan pakolaisrahasto.

    ·  Hankkeessa on mukana 15 paikkakuntaa viiden eri piirin alueella.

    ·  Hanke tukee vapaaehtoisia, jotka järjestävät erilaista järjestö- ja koulutustoimintaa alueelle saapuvien pakolaisten kanssa.

    ·  Hanke toimii järjestö- ja viranomaisyhteistyön vahvistamiseksi paikkakuntien pakolaistyössä.

    Vapaaehtoiset pakolaistyössä on Suomen Punaisen Ristin 2,5-vuotinen valtakunnallinen hanke, jota rahoittaa Euroopan pakolaisrahasto.

  • Hankkeessa on mukana 15 paikkakuntaa viiden eri piirin alueella.
  • Hanke tukee vapaaehtoisia, jotka järjestävät erilaista järjestö- ja koulutustoimintaa alueelle saapuvien pakolaisten kanssa.
  • Hanke toimii järjestö- ja viranomaisyhteistyön vahvistamiseksi paikkakuntien pakolaistyössä.
  • - See more at: http://www.punainenristi.fi/uutiset/20140527/suomea-voi-oppia-villasukki...

  • Vapaaehtoiset pakolaistyössä on Suomen Punaisen Ristin 2,5-vuotinen valtakunnallinen hanke, jota rahoittaa Euroopan pakolaisrahasto.
  • Hankkeessa on mukana 15 paikkakuntaa viiden eri piirin alueella.
  • Hanke tukee vapaaehtoisia, jotka järjestävät erilaista järjestö- ja koulutustoimintaa alueelle saapuvien pakolaisten kanssa.
  • Hanke toimii järjestö- ja viranomaisyhteistyön vahvistamiseksi paikkakuntien pakolaistyössä.
  • - See more at: http://www.punainenristi.fi/uutiset/20140527/suomea-voi-oppia-villasukki...

It is bingo night at Pudasjärvi’s International Club. People have gathered around a long table for the popular pastime. There is a constant buzz in the air, as people tell each other what they’ve done in the past week, while at the same time listening for the next bingo number. Somebody cracks a joke, making everybody laugh.

- The idea was to get an evening club going that would offer something to everybody in Pudasjärvi. Now we get some 20 people coming to the club every week, says Moses Wachira, volunteer leader of the bingo game at the local FRC branch, with satisfaction.

Moses tries to explain why the evenings have become so popular.

There doesn’t need to be a busy programme all the time, just spending time together is often much more important to people.They like having a place where they can come and hang out with their friends.

In a while, shouts of ‘Bingo!’ come from somewhere along the table. The winners are applauded. Clearly, this group of people are characterised by spontaneity and friendship, even though many of the members only joined last autumn.

- We want everyone to be able to come here the way they are, says Elina Uusi-Illikainen, who is in charge of multicultural operations for the FRC branch.

Efficient information work

There seems to have been a clear need for international activities in Pudasjärvi. As early as in 2011, the town stated in its municipality plan that development of immigrant work was seen as a key area to make Pudasjärvi attractive. The municipality now aims for ten per cent of its inhabitants to be immigrants by the year 2018.

- I have visited schools and group homes for young asylum seekers to tell people about our activities, and word about what we’re doing is also spreading among employees at the municipality, who meet a lot of people through their work,’ says Moses Wachira.

New participants bring new energy

The International Club has brought a lot of new people into the local branch and they are interested in the Red Cross. All these new people seem to have brought a fresh energy to the operation.

Elina Uusi-Illikainen, speaking of the change, says:

- It’s great to see how the line between participating in our activities and becoming a volunteer is getting increasingly blurred as club members want to get more involved in planning the activities and organising things themselves.

At the same time, the FRC branch strives to strengthen all local activities through increased cooperation within the branch. Those who take part in the International Club have, among other activities, been visiting the local Reddie Kids club and teaching the children songs and games from other countries.

- In May, we had a spring event for the entire local branch. We invited everyone who is involved in the various action groups, all our volunteers, and of course all the members of our branch. The more, the merrier and the bigger the party, says Elina, laughing.