Kuva: Jouko Vatanen
Finland is the land of thousands of lakes and associations. The Finnish National Organization of the Unemployed has 73 member NGOs around Finland which provide material aid, welfare and work placements for the long term unemployed.
Some of these NGOs have access to state and municipal aid and have become professionalized. Many are based on volunteer work – and are involved in distributing food aid, as well as social and physical assistance and peer support.
The focus is on the sticky long term unemployment. The age profile of involvement tends to be above 50 years old, but there is variety across the working age and also substantial participation from retired folks.
An unemployed organization volunteer worker provides this testimony of the stress caused by Covid19:
Kari, 67, male, Turku, South-western Finland
I’m an unmarried man who lives alone and have no close relatives in the city. I made a long career in hockey as a referee, until because of my weakened health I was left unemployed and was eventually put into retirement because of my inability to work.
I had joined the unemployed organization, where I still work actively as a volunteer organizing different weekly programs, trivia competitions, conversational forums, in the clubhouse, where members can read the days paper, borrow books, watch tv, use computers and gain help in their use in case they need it.
I’ve been doing this for 5 hours a day for years, and all my social contacts have formed around my work.
In the beginning of March, the offices were closed due to Covid19. I was suddenly all alone, lonely and isolated as a person of high risk for contraction in my home.
I had become accustomed to eating at the organization’s cafeteria, both healthily and at low cost. Now I was buying unhealthy and costly ready-foods, because I do not know how to cook. I didn’t have the money to eat out.
I had payed my bills with the organization’s computer because I do not have my own computer and only know how to use one to read emails and pay bills. With other public services closed, like libraries, I had to pay all my bills at the bank, which became expensive quick. I couldn’t even get in touch with friends on email.
Suddenly the base of my life had fallen away, I was very alone, isolated in my home, and I couldn’t even eat properly! I couldn’t help others and was receiving no help! The phone was my only way to contact people, but even that became too expensive. It was a terrible time! This lasted for nearly five months.
The organization was opened again in the beginning of August. Programs were reduced, but I now once again have social contacts around me, and I get to eat well balanced meals.