President Niinistö stressed that the contribution of each and every adult is needed to prevent the social exclusion of young people. Copyright © Office of the President of the Republic of Finland
Despite the drizzly grey weather of early autumn, the mood at Jakomäki School is buzzing with expectation.
“Is that the Pres in that taxi,” asks a pupil in sweatpants, patrolling the schoolyard well before the arrival of President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö.
The purpose of the occasion at Jakomäki School on Friday 7 September was to publish the booklet Ihan tavallisia asioita (Very ordinary things) and the website www.tavallisia.fi. These are collections of everyday things, ways in which parents can make life better for children and adolescents.
Parents, think back to your own youth
In the speech he gave at Jakomäki School, the President stressed that the wellbeing of young people cannot be pursued by official action and committee reports alone. The entire community around a young person growing up has a huge impact: home, family, neighbours, friends, daycare, school and hobbies.
“All these are communities that help shape what a young person becomes. We all have a responsibility in this,” Niinistö pointed out.
“And if there are people who are still not convinced that they have a role to play in this, I would encourage parents to think back to their own youth. I myself can remember many occasions on which an adult, a complete stranger, asked me something like ‘Why did you do that’? And I still remember those times because there was good reason for intervention.”
Even just one everyday thing
ISakari Huovinen, coordinator of the Ihan tavallisia asioita (Very ordinary things) project. In the background is Marko Kulmala, the workshop instructor. Copyright © Office of the President of the Republic of Finland
The Ihan tavallisia asioita booklet was compiled over the summer by working groups consisting of a diverse mix of people invited by the President who are experts in or are themselves experiencing the everyday life of young people.
“What we need are solutions that are simple enough and easy enough to put into practice,” says project coordinator Sakari Huovinen, whose credentials include a doctorate in law. And, indeed, this is what the 36 ‘everyday things’ listed in the booklet are.
“If every one of us can find even just one everyday thing with which to help young people forwards, we will have achieved a lot.”
Linda-Maria Roine from Helsinki related her story at the event at Jakomäki School. Her confidence in officialdom was first shattered at the early age of four, when a person working with children treated her violently.
“The everyday things were a positive shock”
The President having his picture taken with pupils at Jakomäki School. Copyright © Office of the President of the Republic of Finland
When Linda-Maria looked at the ‘everyday things’ that were published on Friday, she experienced what she describes as a positive shock. She singles out four points that touched her particularly closely.
Take care – Early intervention is the most effective. “I would have liked people to do things differently with me. I would have liked them to listen to me, to believe me and to do something about it.”
Birth, love, death – A sense of no roots means a sense of no responsibility. “I think it’s important to know where you’re from, where your family is from and what you’ve inherited. I’ve felt I have no roots, because my dad has never had anything to do with me.”
If nothing else, do this – Don’t ‘introduce’ a child or adolescent to alcohol or even its smell. “I don’t understand why you should learn to use alcohol in moderation. Nobody teaches anyone to use Subutex in moderation, do they?”
Dreams give wings – Well-laid plans by adults may destroy the potential of a young person’s life. “I’ve always liked writing songs and playing music, and that’s what I’m doing right now. That’s what’s kept me alive.”
A photo op with the Pres
After the speeches, the guests, journalists and young people were divided up into workshops. They were asked how these ‘everyday things’ could be translated into practice in the absence of any traditional media.
The workshops came up with all kinds of things: the ‘everyday things’ could be publicised at parent-teacher conferences, on stickers at service stations, on posters in hallways, in rap songs in public places.
One of the groups came up with: “It could be really effective to say: and don’t tell anyone else about this!”
At the end of the day, President Niinistö met pupils in the schoolyard. He shook hands and exchanged a few words – and of course everyone wanted to snap a photo with their phone. Quite a few pupils probably updated their photos on Facebook that afternoon.