Volunteering has been a part of my life since childhood. Back then though, most “volunteering” was done because it was a requirement, through school, church, club scouts, etc. However, the more I volunteered, the more I enjoyed it and saw the value it brought to myself and others. When I began my professional life after school, I became involved in many different organizations where I volunteered in teaching, advocacy, outreach, and various fundraising events. I was meeting lots of new friends and acquaintances at these events and often invited others to join; spreading the joy of volunteering as much as I could.
When I moved to Finland, I approached the move with optimism and like it was an adventure. As I embarked on this new chapter in my life, I had many ideas about how I would try to build a new existence. I honestly intended to simplify things as much as possible and focus on just a few interests (in particular, music and sharing about my experiences in Finland through social media). But as they say, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, and the reality of my situation did not go as intended…
Just before I moved, my wife got very sick. It turned out to be cancer, caused by what we later learned was a genetic mutation (Lynch Syndrome). When I landed in Finland, she was fresh out of the hospital and undergoing her recovery. So, I became preoccupied with trying to deal with all of that while also trying to adapt to a new country. This was unsurprisingly a big challenge. I found myself in a new place where I didn’t know many people, nor did I have a strong support group as I did back in the United States. But within the first year of living in Pori, I began to meet more people, build connections, and find opportunities to volunteer where I could be doing things I loved and that were important to me.
When I became a father and had my life change yet again, I was always looking for guidance and support and that’s how I discovered Familia ry. I first attended a few DUO-living rooms and was so happy with how they went, I was eager to join in with other rooms. The DUO-Father’s group seemed like exactly what I was looking for and it absolutely was. I got good advice from the group, but more importantly, I found that I and others were giving great advice and feedback to our fellow members. We were really helping each other. So, when the next round of the fathers’ group was going to start, I was looking forward to joining again.
Then, I was asked to be a co-facilitator and I was honored. So, I completed the volunteer training and was all set to assist with the group. Then, I learned that the main facilitator had to drop out. I already had a lot of other things on my plate, but I didn’t want the group to not happen. I didn’t want my fellow dads to miss out on getting that support they were seeking, so I said I would run the group myself. And I think that’s an important part of being a volunteer: understanding the value your efforts bring to others.
The DUO-Father’s group seemed like exactly what I was looking for and it absolutely was. I got good advice from the group, but more importantly, I found that I and others were giving great advice and feedback to our fellow members. We were really helping each other
Many other opportunities have come about, opening doors to all sorts of new experiences, skills, people, etc. The key to all of these opportunities was networking (and volunteering always allows for the opportunity to network). When I met new friends, they would introduce me to other friends of theirs, and then I would have some kind of opportunity arise from there. You get out what you put in, so the more you give, the more you get. Furthermore, volunteering in Finland allows for building a record of experience in Finland that can be added to one’s CV, which shows Finnish employers that one is taking action and establishing themself in Finnish society.
I have maintained a positive attitude and that has surely helped me prevail. But I want people who move to Finland to know that it is so important to step out of your comfort zone in order to truly find it again
I have now lived in Finland for over six years, having moved just before Christmas 2016. It has been the adventure I hoped for, but it has also had its many challenges. I have maintained a positive attitude and that has surely helped me prevail. But I want people who move to Finland to know that it is so important to step out of your comfort zone in order to truly find it again. Take chances, go to that party, say yes to an invitation for coffee, etc. Do this at least for the first few months you are living in Finland. Then, you’ll find yourself inviting others to share in new experiences with you. And along the way, while you’re making friends, all of a sudden, you’ll see a way that you can get involved and/or volunteer to do things that relate to your core values and provide you with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Finland will then feel more like home than ever before.
Editor: 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.