Rovaniemen palloseura improves attitudes ‘We cannot afford to sideline anyone.’

Pauliina Pensikkala/SPR
Tatjana Heinonen
Tommi Toikkanen

Football club Rovaniemen palloseura is one of this year’s recipients of the Red Cross Pioneer Against Prejudice Awards. In its operations, RoPS has championed a football-is-for-everyone attitude and publicly spoken out for non-discrimination and against racism.

The Finnish Red Cross Lapland District presented the Pioneer Against Prejudice Award (Ennakkoluuloton edelläkävijä in Finnish) to the football club at an event during the Week Against Racism in Rovaniemi. Rovaniemen palloseura received the Award because they have shown how a sports club can have a positive influence on the attitudes of society.
RoPS set a good example for others by intervening to prevent any racist or discriminatory behaviour during football matches, by employing players from a variety of backgrounds, and by publicly speaking out against racism through, for instance, the Show Racism the Red Card campaign.
‘In the locker room and on the pitch we need every single player. We can’t afford to sideline anyone. A successful team needs different kinds of players – of different ages, from different countries and with different backgrounds. Each player brings their own special strengths and together they make the team stronger, more knowledgeable, and more winning,’ says Pasi Pikkupeura, Marketing and communications Manager of RoPS.
Each year, the Finnish Red Cross presents communities, companies or private individuals with their Pioneer Against Prejudice Awards to promote efforts for humanity and equality. Below are the latest winners and a brief summary of why they received the awards.

Satakunta: Municipality of Eura receiving quota refugees

Over the past few years, the Municipality of Eura has offered a home to refugees who have come to Finland as part of the quota refugee system. Eura has been exemplary in its preparations for receiving refugees, and since 2016 has cooperated with various authorities, organisations and local inhabitants. The first quota refugees came to Eura in 2017, and in 2019 the Municipality is ready to welcome another group of new inhabitants. 
The Municipality of Eura has worked very well with associations and non-governmental organisations whose volunteers have strived to integrate the newcomers. Local people, working as volunteers, have played a key role in helping their new neighbours to feel at home in an unfamiliar place, to get to know the area, to find and pursue their hobby options, and most importantly to get to know the local inhabitants.

Varsinais-Suomi: The House for All Women helps undocumented migrants

The White Ribbon association of Turku, Turun Valkonauha, runs a House for All Women (Kaikkien Naisten talo) which offers activities for at-risk women and their families. A particular focus group helps people encountering problems with their documentation. 
The centre offers individual help to chart people’s situation in full, provides counselling and support, assistance in dealing with the authorities, as well as help and guidance that makes use of their knowledge of the project’s partners and networks. 
Their project work has been unprejudiced and brave and in very practical ways it has helped undocumented migrants and people living under the threat of loss of documentation.

Österbotten: Vasa IS encourages sporting activitys regardless of background

The sports club Vasa Idrottssällskap (Vasa IS or VIS) embraces the principle that everybody should have equal opportunities to play sports, and to achieve that the participation fees are intentionally low. Since 2015, VIS has promoted sporting activities among children and youth from immigrant families and encourages them to continue their sports activity for free. Using project financing, they have also made it possible for these children and young people to participate in training camps and trips around Finland.
VIS has succeeded in bringing together sports-interested young people from various backgrounds. In addition to the club language, which is Swedish, communications during training occurs in Finnish, English, sign language, Dutch, French, Arabic, Somali, Swahili, and a number of Swedish dialects. VIS sets an example for other sports clubs, which motivates and inspires them to follow suit. 

Southwest Finland: Etelä-Karjalan Osuuskauppa creates equal opportunities for work

The cooperative society Etelä-Karjalan Osuuskauppa (Eekoo) strives to create equal opportunities for people to work. At Eekoo, one of the key personnel policies is that all staff are treated equally and fairly.
‘For the successful integration of immigrants, getting them to work is key. That is why we support the employment of immigrants by offering trainee jobs at our various stores, which helps them to integrate and become part of the workforce in Finland,’ says Päivi Jäkälä, Personnel and Communications Manager at Eekoo.
Eekoo is part of the S-Group, which employs people of 72 different nationalities.

Savo-Karjala District gives Award to fishing association and a company employing immigrants

The Red Cross Savo-Karjala District decided to give the Award to two recipients, because they found it impossible to choose only one of them. The first recipient is the company Lapp Connecto, a wiring systems manufacturer with a plant in Vieremä. 
Lapp Connecto has been hiring and training immigrants for several years. The company trains its staff in how to meet newcomers, and focuses on initial training to ensure that the cooperation works smoothly for everyone.
‘Immigrants have helped to widen the world views held by other employees, and they have contributed to increased tolerance. Thanks to them, we have a more positive and fair attitude to both work and other employees,’ says Janne Rautua, Plant Manager at Lapp Connecto Oy’s Vieremä plant.
The second Award was given to the fishing club Lesnan Naputtajat of Joensuu. Back in 2015, the fishing club got in touch with nearby reception centres for asylum seekers and offered to help the inhabitants with fishing. 
Since then, the club has taken children fishing, and arranged courses that provide information on how Finns fish, what permits are needed, and how to cook fish dishes. The club has also donated fishing gear to the reception centre, which has made it possible for many asylum seekers to go fishing in their own time.
‘Our information meetings and fishing days have drawn decent crowds. Some of the participants have become hobby fishermen. They’ve got their permits and go fishing with their mates. That’s a sign of success,’ says Matti Pasanen, Chairman of Lesnan Naputtajat fishing club.

Helsinki and Uusimaa District: Award to Hassen Hnini for supporting sexual minorities

Hassen Hnini came to Finland from Tunisia after the revolution there and has worked to improve the lot of asylum seekers of the HLBTIQ community (who self-define as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual, or queer) in Finland. Hnini has provided support services and advocated for HLBTIQ people.
Hassen Hnini was a key figure in the founding and operation of the Together group. Together focuses on providing group support and client assistance for asylum seekers and people with a refugee background who are part of a sexual or gender minority. As chairman of Heseta ry, Hnini has also worked on Helsinki Pride.

Western Finland: The Suomalainen Kirjakauppa bookstore employs young people with immigrant backgrounds

Sari Männikkö, Sales Manager of the Suomalainen Kirjakauppa bookstore in Vaasa, was given the Pioneer Against Prejudice Award for helping young people from immigrant backgrounds to find their first summer job. 
A non-prejudiced and future-oriented outlook is expressed in her asking who will look after us when we are old. She feels strongly that we must give immigrants a chance to become part of Finnish society. Even though the number of young people she has hired is small, her actions are an encouraging example for other companies.