My name is Laura, and I am above all the mother of a wonderful intercultural, multilingual child. I joined the Familia family two and a half years ago and am currently the specialist on Familia’s Belingual project which supports the multilingualism and identity development of under school aged children.
I was born in Finland, to Finnish parents, but I have lived most of my life outside my country of birth. And whilst I have always felt steady in my national identity, Finland has not been home for me. I lived in Japan for the early part of my childhood and moved back to Finland with my family when I was nine. Integrating back into a Finnish school, learning in Finnish, making Finnish friends was a bit harder than I had expected as a nine-year-old. Fast forward 30 years of living in Spain, the UK, Sweden, and Uganda, I moved back to Finland again, four years ago. Integrating into Finnish society and making Finnish friends was once again a bit harder than I had expected.
Starting work at Familia was like a new start for me. Familia was welcoming, I felt a sense of belonging, like this was a place I had the right to be. Familia has been my introduction to Finnish working life and the Finnish NGO world. Though I spoke Finnish daily, I had never worked in Finnish before. It was wonderful to have my skills and abilities recognized and valued, despite my initials struggles to form sentences that made sense. Above all I have made friends; I have settled into life here and for me Familia has been a big positive part of my reintegration process.
Familia has worked with families for 35 years and in that time the need for dedicated spaces where children can hear and use their home language(s) has come up continually. Belingual aims to meet this need. At the core of Bilingual’s work are our Belingual Language clubs. These are community spaces that bring together families that speak the same language. All the clubs are run by volunteers and the aim is to expose children to their home language through play and community. We have had clubs in 13 different languages, and it has been very rewarding working with our amazing volunteers to make it happen.
And finally, my greatest teachers during my work with Belingual have been the children that attend our clubs and events. There is not a single interaction that I have walked away from without a new idea or realization that something needs to be improved or worked on. I loved the opportunity to play and have fun and to encourage parents to do the same.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have joined Familia, and especially the Belingual project at this point in my life, as the parent of a small intercultural child. From a personal perspective, I have learnt so much about being the parent of an intercultural child both from Familia’s work but also from my colleagues and our Belingual volunteers.
The most important area of learning and growth, both personally and professionally has been in how to be an antiracist…and how to continue leaning to be an anti racist. I have daily opportunities to learn and act through the work that Familia does, through conversations with my colleagues, by attending events organized by different anti racist actors and through partnering with both individuals and organizations doing anti racist work. I am able to think more critically about the space and power I occupy in our society and am dedicated to ensuring that my work, even if in a small way, contributes to making our society a better, more equal place for my child to call their home.
eDITOR: YVETTE AHONEN
Haluamme kertoa juhlavuotemme kunniaksi 35 tarinaa kahden kulttuurin perheistä
Julkaisemme 35 viikon ajan 35 erilaista tarinaa, jotka kuvastavat monia haasteita ja mahdollisuuksia, joita kahden kulttuurin perheet jokapäiväisessä elämässään kohtaavat. Haluamme näiden tarinoiden heijastavan todellisuutta ja tarjoavan vertaistukea, voimaannuttavia kokemuksia ja inspiraation lähteitä sekä lisäävän tietoisuutta kulttuurienvälisyydestä ja monikielisyydestä Suomessa.
For 35 weeks, we will be publishing 35 different stories that reflect the many challenges and opportunities intercultural families face in their everyday lives. We want these stories to reflect reality and serve as an accessible peer support, source of empowerment and inspiration, and increase awareness of Interculturalism and Multilingualism in Finland.