THE MOG BLOG continues...
So after some 4 hours on the bus we arrived in the city of Senajoki. The journey was long although it did provide an opportunity to witness the Finnish landscape. For me (I'm just a boy form the Welsh valleys like innit?) it was very flat. I'm not used to flat and the expanse of flatness was something to behold. It also struck me that Finland, in general, seems to be a rural place with great distances between major towns and cities. For this reason young people board at schools and so, during school times the major centres can be very busy although during holidays the centres are relatively empty.
The youth dept of the city and region of Seinajoki sees all young people (those under 30 in accordance with the Finnish Youth Act) as "active operators in a tolerant and cultural town".
I really liked this description; it puts a really positive slant on young people and along with a commitment to developing culture and business as well as multi cultural and sustainable development in the town demonstrates a sense of community development with relationships at it's heart.
The youth dept talks about tapping into the "energy" of the young people, joined up working and utilising "stages" to showcase the talents of young people. This concept of participation and engagement within the community in order to encourage community cohesion and pride seems to be reflected in the way that young people from the region will return to settle down after school/college/university. There's definitely a sense of pride in Seinajoki.
I think that the "brain drain" we often see in other countries where young people take their skills elsewhere and do not return to invest in their own communities, is not so apparent here and the youth dept seems to be encouraging this attitude through community events such as the annual "Provinssirock" rock festival (Link to the English page).
Interestingly, once again the issue of "online youth work" popped up as the youth dept are calling for more youth workers to spend time in online counselling fora. This once more demonstrates the falling number of face to face enquiries and the need to go to "where young people are"; surely a pre-requisite of the youth worker? This opened up a great deal of debate (at least in my head) as to where the line is and reminded me of some of the discussions over on UK youth work online (LINK) where these issues are able to be discussed openly and hopefully inform policy over here.
I think this recurring theme in Finland has given me something to bring back to Wales and discuss with the Information Workers Network. I'd be interested to receive any comments around this issue, whether in Wales the UK or other countries. Hmmm.
In conclusion, I felt there was a real energy and motivation within the youth dept in Seinajoki and despite universal issues of staffing, time and resources the centre seemed busy, running dance and ballet programmes, arts and crafts etc. as well as a space for general information work.
More info on Seinajoki youth dept HERE.