by the IW Club Rauma, D141, Finland
The IW Club in Rauma, a town of some 40,000 inhabitants on the southwest coast of Finland and 250 km from of Helsinki, has been involved in helping two local school children from a deprived background by paying for their school books worth Eur 1500 in three subsequent years. The aid is being co-ordinated by the small-numbered local Save the Children Association whose contribution to children is an outstanding achievement.
Now that refugees and asylum seekers abound even in Finland the focus of the IW Club in Rauma is turning on making friends with women refugees, helping their families get established here and supporting their children and adolescents get a good education. It often takes one active member to get started and in our case it was Raija a wholehearted volunteer worker and a professional woman who introduced the idea of welcoming two attractive West-Asian women in our January meeting: Fatima, a mother of four children from Yemen, some 6000 km away, and Shevin, a 24-year-old Kurd from Syria, pregnant with her first child.
With her husband and children Fatima lives in the Reception Centre waiting for a decision whereas Shevin and her husband, from Iraq are making themselves at home in Rauma. Shevin wants to finish her studies in social work and learn Finnish whereas her husband, with a law degree, wants to pursue a career in journalism – he worked as a journalist and human rights defender in Iraq – by studying photography, his abiding passion. A few days after the Club meeting, many of us attended a seminar where they spoke about their motives, their long and dangerous journey to Finland as well as about their experiences here.
Last autumn, the Club had also been helping out an Afghan family with six children to accommodate themselves in their new home. This was a joint operation with the local Rotary Clubs and a special effort of another activist member of ours, Sirkka.
Likewise, in the January meeting coinciding with the International IW Day we discussed the experiences we had gained in Kirchheimbolanden, Germany earlier last year. By invitation of the Kibo Clubs, a total of thirty IW sisters and Rotary brothers from Rauma took part in this study tour.
The tour was meticulously planned and organised by our Rotary and IW members, Paavo and Anneli, who also guided us to the surroundings of Frankfurt, Mainz, to the River Rhine and the legendary Loreley.
Apart from the superb hospitality of the host clubs, we learned about the very active role the Kibo IW Club plays in providing help and support for people who need it. All in all, not only is the friendship across boards a most rewarding adventure but it will certainly bear fruit in the future.