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Blog: Towards lasting regional volunteer centres

As the representatives of Citizen Forum we got, with Saara Jäämies, an opportunity to participate in an interesting seminar in Pärnu. The seminar was meant for volunteer managers. There were 30 participants.

The place where the seminar was held was an old school centre: The surroundings were interesting and distinctive. For that amount of participants it was suitable, though the food and coffee was served in the same venue. There was no wifi connection in the building, which felt strange, as we are so used to it. There was an interpreter arranged for us who translated the speech from Estonian to English. It was fairly difficult to concentrate, as the English came to one ear and the Estonian to the other. My knowledge of English is poor. The other organizer, Eha Paas, fortunately spoke also Finnish.

The theme of the seminar was “Volunteers as part of social services and the role of the regional volunteer centres there in“.

Saara gave on Thursday, 24 August, a speech on the situation of the volunteer work in Finland, the role of Citizen Forum and the networking of the coordinators. In addition to Estonians there were two representatives from Latvia and they told about their experience with young volunteers:

The representative of Pärnu city told about the Let us be active! project that was held on EU funding. One party in it had been Turku city. We were wondering as neither of us had heard of such a development project. The output had been a small, useful guide: Senior volunteering – Involving and activating seniors in local community”. A thought occurred to me to find out if a Finnish edition was made from the guide.

I had to go far to find what is near:

At the seminar also Helpific platform was presented to exchange volunteers. Helpific is developed on crowdfunding. Also this project has had parties in Helsinki.

There were participants also from the University of Tartu and from the university hospital. They were extremely interested about hospital volunteer activity. I told them about OLKA-activity and sample developed by Espoo Association Community EJY Assoc, and HUS, that have already spread to other hospital areas in Finland. I believe that they will get in touch with Anu Toija, whose contact information I gave them.

One speech concentrated on the assessment of the risks. I found the thought to see the guidance and work guidance as part of the security of volunteer activities important. It is often seen just as an activity supporting volunteer commitment and management.

We visited on Friday the second hand market of the Shalom Association and the shelter administrated by the association. Both places have volunteer activities.

In Estonia there are no coordinators yet, but sure there will be soon! Saara told them about the job description of Helsinki city coordinators and the same content will be presented when the Estonians apply for new development funding for volunteer activities. The common attitude towards volunteer work in Estonia is positive, but it is difficult to get decision makers to grant funding for it. The speech strongly emphasized on the necessity: the volunteers are needed to help the social workers, as the professionals cannot meet all the need. In that seminar it was not yet discussed about volunteer activities as an increasing factor of democracy and inclusion.

They don’t still have the guides of volunteer activities in their mother tongue. The seminar organizers Eha Paas and Anu Viltrop speak Finnish and we sent them links to books in Finnish.

Estonian summer capital Pärnu was beautiful though rainy. Fortunately, on Thursday evening the sun started to shine from behind the clouds. I believe that after this trip and Saara’s successful presentation, cooperation with Estonia got a good start.

Text: Anne Laimio

Translation: Vivika Maar

Summer Academy 24−25 August 2017, Pärnu

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