Hope -Yhdessä & Yhteisesti ry, Finland
“Just about everyone of us can influence what kind of world children grow up in, and what kind of world we ourselves want to live in”
Located in Finland, HOPE strives to ensure children receive equal opportunities within everyday life. Founded in 2009, HOPE operates through 20 local actors across Finland. The initial ecological value encompassing HOPE’ activities originates from providing material aid in the form of clothes and hobby gear for families. For staff, however, HOPE values a number of dimensions critical to improving equity beyond an ecological focus: humanity, openness and reliability.
Children from families with little financial means, known in Finnish as vähävarainen perhe, are at the centre of HOPE’s work. The organisation aims to take the pressure off parents by ensuring children have the resources to participate fully in their communities, peer groups and schools. Families that have been assisted often share that their children have been subject to bullying due to not having the right clothing, hobby gear – or even a hobby at all. In some cases, children also are unable to participate in school trips. HOPE provides support to be able to do this.
In Finland, COVID has increased families’ demands for assistance against a backdrop of growing inequalities. While HOPE lost both individual donors and business that used to support them – these donors themselves suffering from the economic impact of COVID – further donor support was also gained. Amidst these challenges, the organisation focused much of its activities on providing food aid to low-income families. They found that COVID exacerbated issues already faced by low-income families, including insecurity and child bullying. HOPE was able to develop new collaborations with companies to receive food aid, support families in redistributing food and distribute vouchers that could be redeemed in supermarkets.
In recent years, food systems in Finland have become structured around large supermarket companies, forming a ‘top-down’ supply chain. While such structure has occurred, a substantial part of the population forage for produce such as berries, mushrooms and herbs (see: https://doi.org/10.30663/ay.97101). The right to forage and move around in forests is known as the “Everyman rights”. Foraging is great for nutritious produce, compared to imported foods, and ecological. In connection to foraging, food is regarded as ‘waiting’ in the forests – this intersects with the concept of the “honourable poor” (first time heard used in the Finnish context: https://areena.yle.fi/audio/1-50777670 ) by which people are expected to forage in the midst of food insecurity. When COVID-19 emerged, however, it was too late to forage. This is where HOPE’s food aid provided support for those unable to both forage and shop for commodities.
To find out more about the work of HOPE please visit https://hopeyhdistys.fi/hopen-uutisia/
Blog written in collaboration with Eija Meriläinen.