When the paths crossed…

We were probably in one of the most successful partnership building seminars, just didn’t know it yet at the time! A story of the partnership building in Finland, including partners from Kosovo and Ukraine, that led to a group volunteering project.

Start of a new partnership and what it leads to.

Summer was slowly turning into autumn. It was surprisingly sunny when the day finally took place. In our Youth Centre we were a bit anxious. Months of preparation were finished and now it will really happen. But that was not the beginning. It all started on an evening in the early days of May in southern Finland. It was the first warm day in Finland. In Finland summer is so short that we say every warm day could be the last day of summer so you should enjoy it to the fullest.

Somehow, on that evening when the sun had already started to set, with few of the participants of the seminar we found ourselves in a small (and very beautiful) cemetery. Wouldn’t have been my first choice for a place for starting cooperation. But it was a perfect place to start to plan a horror movie. And the darkening evening was a perfect setup for our imagination. So exactly there I think it all started. When there was a place for talking, walking, and finding a common humour. And after, in the following days, setting up a plan for actual cooperation was easy – says Sarianne Lokasaari, project coordinator and youth worker from Finland.

So that was the beginning for us to start cooperation with an organisation from Kosovo, a totally new partnership country for us. In our Youth Centre we are always trying to find new countries to learn from and cooperate with. But what kind of cooperation did we start with? Well, we had just the perfect project in mind! In the middle of the forest in Central Ostrhobotnia there is a small municipality called Perho. And they were in need of helping hands. Nature, forest, and lakesides are the wonders of that place but needed someone to clear pathways, build up signs and restore the area for people to enjoy outdoor activities. 

What a great opportunity to organise a team volunteering project! We found altogether 10 amazing volunteers to join our project from Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Türkiye, Ukraine and now –  for the first time for us  – from Kosovo. With the help of our new partner we found two enthusiastic and motivated young people from Kosovo to join our project.

So now, back to the very start of the story, when the summer started to turn to the autumn. Then we finally received the volunteers. And from there started a beautiful story of the volunteers, living and volunteering in the middle of the forest in Perho, helping the local village associations with renovating the nature paths. The project we called Our common path. 

Month after, when the autumn hit to the fullest, it was already time to say goodbye to the volunteers. It really brought tears to my eyes, when listening to the volunteers telling about their project on the last day before departure. It had not been the easiest time to live together in a rural area in a cottage and do physical work outdoors. But it had for sure been an experience of a lifetime. Overcoming the challenges, and learning to work and live together, seeing the northern lights and experiencing the Finnish lifestyle. New appreciation of nature and also the understanding of finding a common ground between people from different cultures and backgrounds really stood out from their stories. 

For me the best part was getting to know people from other countries and cultures and seeing how we got closer to each other.

The best part was looking at the trail and seeing the good job we’re doing. As well as a citizen treating us with coffee and pancakes to thank us for the work we did.

– volunteers of the project.

Paths were crossed, paths were made and paths will be continued…

We really want to thank the Municipality of Perho for hosting the volunteering team project, all of our supporting organisations (Imagina, System&Generation, Vicolocorto, Stella NGO, I.PEICC, Aha-Voralberg) and Youth Centre Drenas for starting cooperation and helping us to receive our first volunteers from Kosovo!

Partnership building seminar mentioned was organised by the Finnish National Agency and the volunteering team project was organised by Youth Centre Villa Elba with the European Solidarity Corps funding.

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