perjantai 29. toukokuuta 2015

Struggle for the Sámi Homeland

I'm trying to get up that great big hill of hope” Remembering the echo of our last nights’ singing of the 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up?”, on May 29th 2015, I feel driven to find out what the Sámi's are missing here in Finnish society. From my own perspective, I have always considered the Sámi people important for allowing Finnish people to settle peacefully on this continent. However, during this excursion to Kevo I have begun to reflect on our culture on a more global level.

I try all the time in this institution” The meaning of culture is generally defined from the perspective of the majority, in western countries, the white man’s idea and understanding of a cultures’ content. Differing from this, Sámi culture (and indigenous culture in general) tends to affect things on a lot wider level and their culture can be seen in almost everything they do. During our course, I have begun to understand how much a society's culture influences social- and health policies and the diverging impact it has on social sustainability globally. Globally, there’s likeness in the socio-economic issues we all struggle with today, however the social problems they cause vary greatly in scale. For example, there’s a stark contrast between the way Sámi people are treated in Russia, and the way they are treated in Nordic countries. As I felt sadness because of our last day together, the expedition headed to the Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos, Inari.

What's going on” For recognizing the issues of indigenous people here in Finland, and Scandinavia in general, we had the possibility to hear about the work of the Sámi parliament. Suddenly, it became clear that although the Sámi are mentioned in the Finnish constitution (1086/2003), Sámi's are struggling to sustain their cultural identity in their own homeland because of the colonizers’ governance, politics, and control over natural resources. For example, there are around 10,000 Sámi people living in Finland, however, 70% of Sámi youngsters nowadays live outside of the Sámi Home Region due to the fact that they have to move far away to get an education. On matters concerning the Sámi as indigenous people, the Finnish government has an obligation to consult Sámi’s and the Sámi Parliament, however this rarely has any influence on governmental decisions. In 2007, the UN-countries accepted the ILO-declaration No.169, however the Finnish parliament hasn't been able to legally ratify it yet. Overall, Sámi’s are being marginalized even though their rights are acknowledged in the constitution.

I was very surprised by their holistic approach to their identification, which is one of the key elements of being officially recognized as an indigenous person. Their identity as a divergent people manifests itself in the traditions of their language, art and professions which are the vital links into their culture and self-understanding. I am also impressed by their unanimous cultural strength in protecting their wellbeing. Although individually  it is a continuous work for making a living in Lapland, they are able to keep on living strong as a whole community. That is something to learn from in this lonely and individual-based western society. While their lands are being used unsustainably for profit by colonizers, it’s becoming a necessity for the preservation of the Sámi culture to actively promote the preservation of the Sámi languages, despite their residence outside Sámi Homeland. Because of our history together with the Sámi people, one could even debate we owe it to them to give better support to for example keeping the Sámi language alive, than we currently are. If you are interested to share the experience, please visit Sida.

What about my own self-understanding? Because of the people I met, my self-understanding as a social worker focuses more on being courageous and cherishing of people. I am grateful for all of you, who made it possible to learn, about different discourses and solutions to social issues in your homeland. I almost feel overwhelmed by this opportunity for broadening my horizons the International Summer School 2015 gave me. 

And I say Hey!” Thank you each and every one of you. And, while feeling a little blue, it is time for farewells. Cherish hope! Be courageous Social Workers! I miss you all.

Heidi Hellsten, University of Lapland, Finland

keskiviikko 27. toukokuuta 2015

Kevo excursion 27-28st May 2015

We are sitting in cosy sofas in the basement of the main building of Kevo subartic research institute. First day of our trip is just becoming to its end. Even the day has been full of interesting activity, people still have energy to sing and have good time in sauna house.  

We departed today from Rovaniemi about seven o`clock in the morning. Most of students were tired, but there was special spirit of expectation in the air. Stanley told us some facts about Finnish nature and visiting places that we were about go.
Our first visiting place was day care centre called Kylälaakson päiväkoti in Sodankylä, about two hours drive from Rovaniemi. There were happy kids and friendly staff members showing us places and giving some coffee and pulla. The director of the place told us some information about their care centre.  Students were really impressed that in Sodankylä and in all over Finland the family have a subject right to have their children in a day care. And the waiting list for day care is maximum two weeks, at least in Sodankylä.  But as it said that one picture tells more than thousand words, let the pictures tell the rest.

Our next stop was in Ivalo. We had a delicious meal in the Hotel Kultahippu. Then we had some free time to explore huge Ivalo centrum, buy some souveniers and eat some ice cream. We hopped on the bus and drove to Sami museum called Siida in Inari. For those, who were awake Stanley told good jokes and those who were sleeping, well they were sleeping.  In Siida, we learned about Sami history and lifestyle and Finnish nature.

After visiting the Siida we head up towards our sleeping place, Kevo subarctic research institute, where the heart of the place, Emilia, was waiting for us. Chefs had made some really good food, that we enjoyed with good appetite. Then, we spread in our rooms, some had to row their way over the lake to their cabins. Some of the student enjoyed the Finnish sauna including swimming in the lake with lots of screams. We bet, all the animals nearby had run away becouse of the noise.  By the way, as a Finnish students, we really appreciate the courage of those who went swimming into extremely cold water.

Feeling clean and fresh, we gathered together in the sauna house. Tables were full of all the good snacks and sausages. Stanley just had to play a few notes with his guitar and the evening was ready to start! We were all feeling like one big family, sitting very close to each other, singing and laughing together.

Next morning there were tired faces at the breakfast tables and stories about last night.

-                     ” How late did you stay up?”

-                     ” Why did you take our boat?”

-                     ” Oh, you look rested! ”

First in the morning we went to the Utsjoki elementary and high school. It is the only high school within 100km. The amount of students in the high school is six at the moment and in the elementary school about seventy. The speciality in the school is that one of the major languages is Sami. The surprise could be seen in student’s, when the staff told us about the lifestyle here in the north. Even it is -45 degrees celsius outside, there is no change to skip the school, it will be open! Except in extremely important time in reindeer herding, when even childrens of families are needed to help, some students might be out off school for weeks. Teachers will give them some home work to do.


After visiting school, we had change to go to Finland- Norwegian border. We took beautiful, awesome, remarkable pictures with and without jumps. Some of the people went to have coffee to wake them up.
The next stop was in very old church village. Ladies were trying to make us believe that in those little huts had been staying even ten persons at the same time. Now you are probably thinking what are those huts? Well you can just google.
So, in the old ages in early 18th century, people came to church from far away. They had to have place to stay over, so they built those huts. Every extended family had their own hut. As you probably know, there were no supermarkets at that time, so during those church meetings they also traded things, like food and animal leather.

The rest of the day we had time to explore the nature in Kevo, take some sleep and sauna again. The bravest ones went swimming again. This is going to be our last night together in Kevo, so we are going to stop this typing and go enjoying time with awesome people!:)

We two want to thank all of you who made this trip unforgettable!

-          Salli Hentilä and Hilkka Ylimartimo, University of Lapland



tiistai 26. toukokuuta 2015

Diversity of realities

On Tuesday, we discussed very topical issues. Dr. Heather Ottaway´s lecture "Conceptualising and working with risk in child protective services: The UK experience" considered speak about social risks and how they are constructed culturally and locally construct. More and more social risks are constructed as they are the responsibility of individual themselves. Ottaway´s lecture emphasized how important it is for a social worker to understand the way the social risks are constructed culturally and locally. Understanding the risks is crucial for being able to help the customers from various with very different backgrounds. We have to take into account the globalization and internationalization in the social work even if it´s not part of our work environment at the moment. The world is getting smaller and one day even the remotest little village in Finland might have inhabitants from another end of the world whose background differs drastically from our own.

The British student panel was about homelessness in the UK. Students reviewed told about their own experiences about working with homeless people. It was astonishing to hear that in UK legislation local authorities do not have a duty to secure housing for all homeless people.  This has resulted in that homelessness is a real problem in the UK. During the Pakistani panel we saw very touching and heart breaking pictures and a video how people live in refugee camps in Pakistan.  Social work has its own unique features in every country, but still all the students share the same goal to take care of people in weaker and unequal position.

What stick into our minds was the discussions how much environment, circumstances and standards of living infects on human rights. In many countries, like in Finland, human rights are mostly taken as for granted, what they are not all globally.  In discussion, we built up the idea of making human rights as a global brand.  Could human rights be as well-known and wanted as CocaCola is nowadays all over the world?

In closing ceremonies, we reflected the contents of the International Summer School 2015. The general opinion of the participants was that the International Summer School 2015 has been a success: the atmosphere has been warm and lectures and panels were educative.  All the participants were inspirited about the possibility to discuss with other people who  are interested in the same issues – the social work. Summer School was awesome experience especially for the students. We got to know the students of social work from all around the world and got new friends, too. We hope that co-operation between universities will continue and there will be International Summer School also in 2016 in Rovaniemi!

As educating and informing the International Summer school has been, we are looking after deeper discussions about the concepts that regard social work. We found out, for example, the concept of wellbeing at the general level as easy to define and understand. For deeper and global level and in social work practice it probably differs hugely between welfare states and developing countries.

Anita Tervo and Pilvikki Harju, Social Work students, University of Lapland, Finland


Workshops in Summer School – reflection and brainstorming

International Summer School was a great opportunity to meet new people all around the World, but the main idea was to understand social work from a global perspective. The Summer School program included a wide range of interesting lectures, leisure time activities and five workshops. In my opinion, the workshops were a great space for reflection and brainstorming.   

In the first workshop, we basically just introduced ourselves: who we are, why we wanted to study social work etc. We discussed the differences of our education. The most shocking thing was to hear about the high fees students have to pay especially in the USA and UK. I have to say that we are really lucky here in Finland and we don't really understand that. 

In the second workshop, our group considered about learning disabilities: how these disabilities are faced and understood from the perspective of our countries. Everyone in our group was telling how people and especially schools react on learning disabilities in their country. In many countries (1) people with learning disabilities are easily stigmatized, (2) these people are ''covered up'', (3) the first way to ''help'' these people is giving them a medication. We also compared how social services are organised and what way we can support better for example kids with ADHD in school. We brainstormed some ideas over physical activities and animal-assistance.

Workshop number three was similar with the workshop number one. Our tutor was Dr. Johanna Hefel from the University of Applied Sciences Vorarlberg (Austria) and she gave us free rein to choose the topic for our workshop. This workshop was one of my favorite because discussion was very natural and smooth. We analyzed the Finnish student panel. Dr. Hefel was really impressed about the student panel and we talked about the theme of stereotypes and taboos. The original topic for this workshop used to be environmental changes: what impact do  environmental issues have on social work practice, how im-portant environmental issues are in our countries and how they are identified and what is being done etc. 

In the workshop number four, we talked about migrations of people across national borders, e.g., im-migrants, refugees, asylum seekers. In our workshop group, we had students from the UK, Finland, Vietnam, Pakistan, Austria and USA, so it was a wonderful chance to hear about the stereotypes or be-liefs that are used to describe people who belong to non-national cultural groups in our countries. We also talked, what are the main reasons why they have come for example to Finland. In the UK, for ex-ample, the biggest reason for migration is studying. About 50% of the migrants comes from the EU, and the other 50% from other parts of the World. In Pakistan, the situation is very different. There are about 3.7 million refugees! In our workshop group, we pondered about the differences between our countries, but we also find something sad we have in common: non-national cultural groups are often seen as the freeloaders in our society. Can we change this belief?

Workshop number five was the final workshop. Before the workshop, Professor Stanley Witkin from the University of Vermont (USA) showed us a video about human rights. Our job was to discuss about our reactions to the video, are human rights universal or natural etc. The video was criticized about being made from the perspective of European Union. One student said that it was like an advertisement. In the end, we had a great discussion about the human rights and how those rights are actualised in our countries. From the Finnish perspective, we have quite good situation, but in some countries human rights are just an ideological castle in the air. 

-  Niina Ellala, University of Lapland

maanantai 25. toukokuuta 2015

Transnational social work, self-criticism and learning new perspectives


The main theme of the day was immigration and its effects on culture. The first lecture, “Transnational social work and transcultural perspectives”, was provided by Juri Killian from the University of Kassel, Germany. Killian analyzed the meaning of identity and the importance of understanding the dynamicity of cultures. Killian’s lecture raised many questions among students. An interesting point was how social surroundings, after all, play an important role in affecting people becoming radical. We, as social workers, must reconsider if there is room for demonization and ponder how we can truly relate to social change.

The German students held a presentation about unaccompanied refugee minors (URM) in Germany. The students discussed the reasons why there are URM’s ( = people who are under 18 years of age, who are outside their country of origin and who are separated from both of their parents or their previous legal caregiver) and how they are taken care of in the various states of Germany. Furthermore, the students told us what kind of projects there are in Germany for the URM’s, for example regarding their living situation, education and language. Because of their geographical position, some states are more concerned with refugee situations without enough resources to deal with the issue. Are we lucky in Finland while our country isn’t the first place for example for the African boat refugees to go to? Can we just decide to close our borders from any inconvenient occasions? Another case to reflect is the gender issue among the URM’s. Because most of the URM’s are boys, what happens to the girls?

In the presentations of Serbia, Switzerland and Russia, the students considered the implementation of social work in their home country. We discovered similarities of doing and studying social work in different countries. However, it is not the similarities but the differences between the countries we should learn more about. One goal of the summer school was to review our system from other perspectives. Learning how social issues are confronted within other countries and comparing it to our way of operating with them, is a step towards it.

Professor Julie Cooper from the California State University discussed self-criticism in social work practice. Cooper asked if the self-criticism is always a negative issue or could it be constructive or helpful, especially when it comes to the contemporary social work practice. She has been working in the field of social work for 30 years which is, in our opinion, a long time considering the demanding and challenging nature of social work practice. She has found self-criticism, working with young students and openness for new ideas important for herself. While the world around us changes all the time, it is needed to modify our understanding about society and social issues, too. That is a valid thing to remember in our social work career.

The students from the USA gave a wide image of what the social work can be like in the USA. The insurance based health care system and investing in prisons instead of education gives a harsh image of the social politics and the society. It seems like there’s a huge and long lasting need for social workers. Even though the student panel focused on things that need to be paid attention to and brought the flaws of the society to light, the students somehow created a very positive atmosphere in the lecture room. What we learned from the USA students was that the realization of social work greatly differs between countries. Being Finns felt relieving because in the USA, for generating even a little progress in the society, social workers have to work extremely hard. Nevertheless, what connects us social workers across the world is the shared duty of keeping up hope for a better life and better tomorrow. Even if it sounds cliché.

Despite the hunger and too-much-caffeine-head-ache we managed, in the workshop groups, to compare the immigration policies and services of our countries. It was surprising to figure out that in some countries there’s no policy concerning social work’s role in migration at all even if it is a big issue. We found the Finnish number of asylum seekers ridiculously small compared with the other European countries or countries outside of the Europe.  It was such an interesting learning experience to be in a room with at least six different nationalities and to hear each of their opinion about migration and some aspects regarding cultural changes. The raising multiculturalism and how cultural diversity affects our societies are the questions to ponder in contemporary social work.

- Helena Rajalahti & Taru Le Flock, University of Lapland, Finland

perjantai 22. toukokuuta 2015


Friday is the third day of the Summer School, and another day for us all to participate in inspiring lectures and conversations. It is absolutely fantastic to have this kind of opportunity to listen and learn from professionals and students all over the globe. The atmosphere is filled with enthusiasm and empowerment! From the wide range of subjects today, we chose to focus on two themes. One is managerialism and the other is the issue of ageing people in need of social security.
Dr. Vivian W.Q. Lou from Hong Kong gave us a presentation about the professional development process of social work. She argued that social work develops when facing social changes and challenges. Today the challenge to concur is: how to adopt managerialism in social work processes without compromising the ethics of the profession? Managerialism is about administration, where competition, efficiency and economy are the core values. It offers principles on governing services, but it does not offer solutions to social problems. The principles of managerialism are relevant to managing an enterprise, but in social work that is not the case to manage. In the development process of social work, this challenge provokes to define social work again. Who are we as social work professionals and how do we act in that position? In other words, it is defining the identity, ethics and core competence of the profession.
The lovely and smiling students from Hong Kong presented us an age-friendly program in their student panel. This program has been developed there to improve the situation of the rapidly growing population of ageing people. The program’s aim is to empower the elderly people. It focuses on giving them opportunities to influence the society by introducing them their true potential and opportunities to make changes. Key concept is “active ageing”, a transformation from needs-based to rights-based approach. Students argued that even though ageing people have got rights, they need shared information about that, and understand the impact of their own significant role as change-agent in the society. Students remarked that ageing people seem to require permission to express their opinions. Active ageing means optimizing their chances in life and makes it possible for them to participate. This is important for them in experiencing worthiness, dignity and sense of belonging to society. Instead of pushing them in the margin of society just because they are no longer productive members of society as before.

After the presentation there was a conversation about how taking care of the elderly people is changing in Hong Kong. Today’s generation is more self-absorbed than their parents or grandparents were. Today’s young people find it difficult to take care of the needs of three generations: their ageing parents, their own growing children and their own wants. Therefore ageing people have to cope with their daily lives more and more independently. Many of them are forced to work because they do not have enough money to cover the basic needs like housing, food and health care. That is why a public safety net and proper pensions are needed desperately.

According to the Finnish student panel, it seems that we have this same change going on in Finland too. Finnish students brought up taboos that we have in our society. One of the taboos is how do we treat ageing population in Finland? Headlines in the news for past six months have revealed “expensive but poor quality food, violence in a nursing home and loneliness”. In general, it can be easier among people to look away than to act against and start discussing something that others would rather ignore. When it comes to social work, social workers are dealing with taboos all the time. It is necessary, even though taboos are sensitive subjects and they can be difficult to recognise.

Finally, we want to thank all the lecturers and student panelists for thought-provoking and inspiring presentations! The third day of International Summer School continues with the evening program and there will be The International Evening -party at the University. 

Marika Suutari & Pirkko Junttila, University of Lapland, Finland

torstai 21. toukokuuta 2015

Thursday's lectures

Midday´s lectures of the second summer school day were provided by Johanna Heffel from the University of Applied Sciences Voralberg Austria and Christian Stark from the University of Applied Schiences Upper Austria Linz.

"Sex, Work, Sexwork - Social work in a growing field of the European precariat" was the topic of Heffel's lecture. Heffel described that a single type of sex work/sex worker does not exist and sex work is complex, hierarchically organized and highly stigmatized. Sex work and human trafficking has become a major international problem, which nowadays has recognized also in Finland. The Starks's lecture related to the intercultural social work between the poles of thematisation and dethematisation of culture. The more economic and political globalization takes root, the more important initiatives of intercultural learning and intercultural social work become. Stark highlighted that intercultural learning deals not only with cultures but also more generally with diversity. At their student panel, the students from Austria told us, for example, that the amount of foreigners in Austria is growing. At the moment, 12 percent of Australian have an immigrant background. The economic situation in Austria is relatively healthy and therefore it´s possible for immigrants to find a job from Austria.

On Thursday evening, we had some parallel lectures, and we choose to go listening to Prof. Dr. Nijole Petronele Veckiene’s and Dr. Julija Eidukevicute’s lectures about the aspects of Interculturality of family social work in Lithuania, and Roberta Motieciene’s lecture about what it is like to do social work with the families in Lithuania. It was very interesting to hear about social work in Lithuania. The number of families at social risk has been rising in the past 18 years. It also seems that in Lithuania women have greater responsibility to take care of the children and household than men do. The term "family at social risk" is associated with the term "multi problem family" used in the academic literature of social work. The most common reasons why families live in demanding life situation are alcohol addiction and lack of social skills. According to the study, social workers describe their work interesting, hard, responsible, societal, complicated, special, interesting and requiring. Sensibility, docility and support are considered also very important.

Thursday’s last lecture was Abayomi Magbagbeola’s lecture about the perspectives and analysis of social work and social workers in Nigeria. We were very excited to hear about social work in Nigeria, because we think that compared with Finland it is so different. Early missionaries were Salvation Army, Roman Catholic and the Green triangle. But first of all, Nigeria has a traditional support system, which includes for example the extended family system, the clans and traditional beliefs. Also the voluntary organizations and the associations have the important role in social welfare. Social work in Nigeria is mostly therapeutic work and religion has a remarkable role in it. Social work is a response to social problems that prevails in the society. According to Magbagbeola, social work is also not just as a course to study but a passion to fulfil and social work can be considered as a tool solving societal challenges, which arise usually from modernization or globalization and rural-urban migration. Social work is a paradox of order and chaos and balancing between the traditional and the modern social work practice.

- Mari Salomaa & Anni-Maria Kattilakoski, University of Lapland, Finland

keskiviikko 20. toukokuuta 2015

The First day of the International Summer School in the May 20th

Welcome to read about the International Summer School in Social Work & Social Sciences 2015.
In the morning, expectations were exited and waiting on the dawn of 18th International Summer School. Participators represent 18 countries and the amount of participator - 95 people - is the largest group ever. All participations got “an Arctic Coolbag” full of information. Professor Merja Laitinen (University of Lapland, Finland) and Professor Stanley L Witkin (University of Vermont, USA) welcomed all students and lecturers. Stanley wished everyone would enjoy our week, meet new people and encouraged to speak English. We learned that Stanley himself had already learned amazing things about Finland. For example, they drink milk most of all nations (not beer like Germans) in the world.

All participants introduced themselves, and after the introductions Professor Witkin told us about Social work from the global perspective. One part of the message was, that Social Workers Wants to Make a Difference - not just work for scratching a living. And there is any single truth, but many perspectives, interpretations and opinions that differ from each other. Then it was time to have lunch together, with new friends.

After lunch all participants were jolly and they nattered with each other; like they had known each other for a long time. Then Stanley gave the floor to PhD. Liisa Hokkanen (University of Lapland, Finland). She spoke about the Finnish Welfare State, society and social work. She introduced briefly Finnish history, the civil war and the difficult situation of children evacuated abroad at the time of Second World War. After all, Second World War gave us something good, ‘the spirit of winter war’, which united the society. The Welfare State of Finland consist of many elements, where the core principal is universalism. That means free education for all citizenships and publicity provided services, for example health care and day care for children. That is possible only when everyone pay taxes.

After the Lecture, Stanley shared participants up to seven groups. Every group included one lecturer of Summer School as a facilitator. The aim of the workshop was to get to know each other better, for example, in one group everyone told something about him- or herself by using the first letter of her or his own name as an adjective. Participation learned from each other, how social work is taught, understood and regarded in different countries. Discussions were very interactive and interesting.  That is the Spirit of Summer School. Let´s have great time together!

Best wishes:  

Eevaleena Kesti, University of Lapland, Finland
Katri Herala, University of Lapland, Finland