Monday, the 10th of December, was an unusual working day. Instead of taking the familiar route to our office on Sturenkatu, I jumped in pitch-dark on a bus which goes to Pitäjänmäki. I had agreed that I would volunteer for Hope ry. We, employees of Kansalaisareena, may volunteer on two work days a year. In addition to doing good, it brings a nice variety to ordinary office days.
I had thought to do something completely different from usual. Especially at that time before Christmas, I thought that it would be very appropriate to go and help Hope ry, which supports disadvantaged families and those who have experienced a crisis. At the same time there was a small group of business volunteers, so we received a short group orientation for our tasks.
Hope ry functions almost entirely by volunteers. In addition to the executive manager, there is just one hired employee at the office on Kutomotie. Besides, the executive manager is probably mostly at the office in Hämeenlinna. The association distributes donations of clothing and merchandise as well as support for hobbies and holiday experiences for children and young people. There was a large storage room around the corner of the office and the coffee-room. Us volunteers were about to go there and assort all clothes, shoes and goods out of the way of Christmas products. The next volunteers would package them. Every outdated, dirty or broken garment or pair of shoes had to be thrown into big, black trash bags. In turn, we put everything which we thought was still worth keeping into big, white boxes. Easier said than done!
I soon noticed, that it was surprisingly difficult for me to throw shoes and clothes into trash bags. We seemed to come across things of surprisingly good quality. I thought about all those potential people in need, to whom these items could have been a big help. Soon I heard that the garbage bags are not thrown straight into the trash. Usually their contents eventually end up in Africa.
Donations of clothing and goods are distributed approximately every five months to those in need. During times of receiving there are so many donations coming into the storage. I also saw a few times when somebody brought a single Christmas present and somebody else a bag full of goods. One person who is doing vocational rehabilitation at Hope ry said that at best vans may come to the yard every fifteen minutes. So, no wonder that the items must be assessed very critically and thrown into trash bags to make room for new ones.
On one shelf of toys, numerous similar Winnie the Pooh plush toys among others caught my attention. I asked about this and I got an interesting explanation: the plush toys in question were gifts thrown on the ice to figure skaters. Donating them to Hope ry is reportedly an annual tradition.
Working in the storage was surprisingly tough and physical for someone, who is used to office work, but I am pleased that I got to be involved in helping.
Text: Katja Reinikainen
Communications Planner of Citizen Forum and Managing Editor of VerkkoAreena/WebArena
Translation: Kati Merikoski