The last IIRA conference is over and here are some notes and memories from Lappajärvi. The conference actually started already in the evening of arrival. The participants were ‘welcomed’ as they were arriving to a refugee centre. Only Finnish and Arabic were spoken to those who didn’t know these languages. Photos were taken, and security checks done. Why? The idea was to turn roles upside down: those who work with refugees, could have an idea of the feelings and thoughts in a situation where you don’t understand what is going on, and you don’t understand the language spoken.
The arrival was reviewed on Tuesday morning. We made a ‘map of emotions’ (see the photo). Both sides learned from the practice: those who got ‘registered’ understood a bit better the refugees, those who proceeded the registration, understood how their behaviour affects the target group.
The workshops continued the idea of putting the roles upside down. Those who at home carry out language courses, cultural workshops or plan these, were now themselves the customers. We didn’t only see, but we lived integration a little bit. This also was a lesson about empathy, not only integration methods.
The excursion on the second conference day were an outlook to rural Finnish immigration and integration. Immigration is more than asylum seekers and refugees, especially in rural areas. In Alajärvi we saw how a local vocational institute responds the needs of local employers. Education and integration of the newcomers from Russian Carelia is part of Finnish vocational education funded by the state, but as well the students could have a refugee background. We also heard how it is to start a business in a new country. In Kauhava the focus was more on refugees and asylum seekers. We saw the premises where asylum seekers live and heard about language teaching and municipal immigration services.
The conference ended with an introduction to some local measures and experiences and a change to ‘paint the future’. In these beautiful, fun and touching pictures, we can hopefully see the future of Europe.
Thank you for your participation and contribution!