We are keen volunteers
In 2011, Hewida Ahmed was looking for a new direction in life. She had completed two degrees and been a working and stay-at-home mother for years. But now she wanted to do something for the good of immigrant women in particular.
“That was how the multicultural association FINN-MAMU began. I’m still the chairperson of the association, which organises activities for immigrants in the youth centres of Kallahti in Vuosaari, Malminkartano and Vesala.”
FINN-MAMU’s programme for immigrants includes Finnish language teaching, and courses in physical exercise, cooking and handicrafts. Parties and events, trips and camps are also organised. Members have also visited reception centres and invited refugees to join in the activities.
“Our primary aim is to provide low threshold activities for immigrant mothers. When mothers become well integrated in society and learn new things, the whole family benefits.”
The importance of doing things together
At present, Hewida Ahmed is the only employee of the FINN-MAMU association who is paid by City of Helsinki Youth Department. The association’s other activities are run on a volunteer basis. For example, FINN-MAMU has cooperated with the Martha Organisation of Vuosaari and Herttoniemi, the City of Helsinki Sports Department and Monaliiku, the multicultural women’s sports and culture association.
“It is all about doing things together. You cannot achieve anything alone.”
Hewida points out that both native Finns and immigrants are keen volunteers.
“Everyone wants to feel useful. It is really important that everyone has the chance to get involved.”
Increasing racism a cause for concern
Hewida Ahmed moved from Cairo to Helsinki in the mid-1990s and now considers Helsinki her home town. One thing worries her:
“Racism and a hostile attitude towards people of foreign origin have clearly become more common in Helsinki. Aggressive behaviour is much more common now than 5-10 years ago, which is scary.”
Hewida wishes that people would behave warmly towards each other, no matter how difficult the economic situation is.
“We’re all in the same boat, native Finns and immigrants like me. If Finland is not doing well, nobody is doing well. It is important to cooperate and build Finland together.”
With respect to the future, Hewida has a clear message for the City of Helsinki.
“I would like to thank the City of Helsinki and its Youth Department in particular for their support. And I would like to give a big thank you to all of the volunteers, trainees and partners for their good cooperation, in particular the personnel of the Kallahti youth centre for the wonderful atmosphere and togetherness they have provided. I sincerely hope that you will continue to support our activities in 2016.”
Text: Piia Raitavuo
Picture: Mari Hohtari
Leila Haltia chose Hewida Ahmed as a maker of the Helsinki of the future.