At the grassroots level everyone can make an impact
The recent government cuts to adult education affect the integration of immigrants in ways that are difficult to predict.Vaikuttaminen
Foreign professionals enter the workforce directly. Thus, to find community, they rely on natural integration paths such as self-organizing communities and grassroots associations, as opposed to government sponsored integration training. Some of these natural integration paths are directly affected by the government cuts.
A report by the Ministry of Justice in 2022 recommended strengthening migrant-led associations and other grassroots opportunities to participate as equals in society. The report specifically points out that the capacity to influence society must be strengthened not just around elections, but also between them.
Ruben, Viorica, and Anna found their space in grassroots communities
Ruben found a community in which to share his talent and love for music through a choir singing Latin American music.
– It’s been nine years since I joined Coro Latinoamericano. I feel knowledgeable about the music of my country, and I feel that knowledge contributes to the identity of the choir. Rehearsals and performances are a way for us to imprint our own idiosyncrasies in Finland. We become part of the culture here by sharing our experiences and feelings through song. It is the language that connects us with each other and with society.
Viorica found community through an English-language theatre group at Arbis.
– I joined to get better at presentations, using my body and voice to deliver my message, and to have more presence. In the group, I felt free. In the group there were young and old people, different backgrounds, and multiple nationalities, so nobody was ”right” or ”wrong”. We also had some Finns in the group, and we felt togetherness despite our different backgrounds. The environment encouraged fun, mutual support, and acceptance. That, in turn, led to meaningful belonging and stability. By having fun, we became close, and we achieved what we wanted to! It was a transformative event for each of us.
People need community, and they will go where they feel like they belong.
Anna found a place to make a difference on the board of Mieli Without Borders, an organization promoting immigrants’ mental health awareness.
– Founding MWB together with a passionate group of people gave me the feeling that I can influence society towards a more open and flexible approach, for example in integration and cultural- and gender-appropriate mental health support. Through interacting with the MwB community, I’ve learned about different perspectives towards mental wellbeing. I’ve also learned much about what is going on in the field of mental health in Finland. Knowing more about the system and active organizations within it opens new ways of creating tools and strategies to also reach those communities who are usually left out.
The cuts reduce opportunities to participate and make an impact
Community in Finland exists in a rich network of semi-formal to formal communities. It is easy to join these communities, to share in and promote the things that interest you. Through this, many migrants find a community where they matter. A community to belong to also means a community where one can make an impact.
The cuts to adult education affect these opportunities. Adult education centres support these activities in two ways: 1) They support the training activities of small associations such as Ruben’s choir and MwB. 2) They build communities through inexpensive courses, such as Viorica’s theatre group.
The current government claims they want to attract highly skilled professionals. But the message they are receiving now is that they are only valuable so long as they contribute to the economy. Is this what Finland wants – for skilled migrants to keep their head down and just work? People need community, and they will go where they feel like they belong – why would they stay here?