Marie Sandberg has been a supporting member of Familia since 1997. Her first encounter with Familia started when she was looking for a place where she could get familiarized with the topic of intercultural relationships. She was seeking for more information and how she could get more involved.
Since then, Marie has witnessed the first Olohuoneet (Living Rooms), cultural events, the ebb and flows of trends, and the evolution of Familia itself.
Overwhelmed by nostalgia, Marie recounts Finland’s context back in the mid 1990’s (characterized by a low scale integration). Knowing that she held a vast treasure trove of memories to be shared, she explained how back then, Finns wanted to get exposure to international people and how Familia provided this need by creating the Olohuone (Living Room) concept. “The Olohuoneet were the perfect meeting places for fathers, mothers, grandparents, and small children. Everyone was welcome, foreigners and Finns alike. Olohuoneet were spaces where ideas and experiences were exchanged, and new friends were made.” Marie remarks.
As the years rolled by, Marie was invited as a board member. And although the staff was small in the early beginnings (2-3 people), there was an unwavering commitment to the organization deeply rooted in their belief for cultural diversity, and their desire to leave a lasting impact on the community.
Marie recounts a pivotal moment in Familia’s evolving journey. Although Familia was known as a multicultural association, the focus changed when statistics were presented. “We realized that families were moving to Finland for specific reasons, but also more multilingual families were growing in the country. We saw a completely new niche rising and we felt the urgent need to support them in a very holistic approach.” Marie concluded. This is when Familia took the concept of Kahden Kulttuurin Perheiden (Intercultural Families).
It was in 2007, when Familia decided to apply for a funding for a project to find out whether there was a need and a place for closer cooperation among multiculturalism associations. Marie witnessed first-hand how the project was drafted, funded, and implemented. Moniheli was born. “I was part of the first board of Moniheli. It was such an accomplishment and rewarding experience knowing that Familia was initially leading this meaningful project.” Marie added.
Regarding advocacy-one of Familia’s main points of work, Marie maintains, “Familia’s advocacy work is exceptional. It aligns with its goal: to promote the well-being and improve the quality of life of intercultural families. Raising awareness and bringing issues to the surface while developing structures for an equal and multicultural Finnish society. We have been a solid partner to rely on- particularly on a governmental level”.
One of the most profound aspects of Familia, was (and still is) its unwavering commitment to fostering connections. We were the pioneers in introducing the “Living Room” Olohuone concept! We were frontrunners in certain fields, we targeted very small, but we started growing and expanding. We haven’t forgotten our roots
Volunteers have been especially critical for ensuring that Familia can still achieve its critical missions. Marie points out that “our success relies heavily on our volunteers. They have been our backbone, and we must not forget this. On their shoulders lie a big responsibility- they are carrying on the values of Familia”.
As our interview neared its conclusion, we delved into Marie’s vision for Familia and what she enjoys most about being a member. She concludes, “Familia should keep working for the intercultural families through an easy functionality. Going big scale but keeping that closeness with the people that has been characterizing us since the beginning. Not loosing track of the agenda- less is more.”
Familia's strength lies in its members- they play a pivotal role since its them that form the cornerstone and foundation of our activities. For Marie, being a member for such a long time takes a special meaning.
what I enjoy most about being a Familia member is how immediately feel as part of the organization. I am an avid reader of the blog, newsletter, and follow all their activities through their website. You feel welcomed. It is like a family constellation where each member is well received and nurtured. And that’s the part of Familia that will always stay with me.
Marie currently lives in Brussels and works for the Finnish Trade Union Representation to the EU. She became a Board member and a voluntary worker in 2000. She also served as a chairperson between 2018 and 2021 as well as earlier between 2004 and 2006, and vice chair in 2007, 2009, and 2010.
Editor and interviewer: yvette ahonen
Haluamme kertoa juhlavuotemme kunniaksi 35 tarinaa kahden kulttuurin perheistä
ulkaisemme 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.