Since six years KVT offers volunteering opportunities for asylum seekers living in Finland. This summer Mohamed Ibrahim, a 24 year old asylum seeker from Somalia, participated in two workcamps. Here below he tells how did he get the idea to take part and what he has gained from it.
Ibrahim cooking Somali food at the KVT Volunteer Weekend. This cooking team comes from Somalia, Burundi and Iraq.
Do you want to tell US something about yourself?
I am Somalian but was born in Dubai. When political situation changed there my family moved to Damascus, Syria as Somalian refugees. I was going to high scool in Damascus and had a good time there. After the Arab Revolution we again needed to leave Syria, so I left Damascus when I was 23 years old. I made a long journey through Turkey and Serbia, and finally I came to Finland.
WHere did you get the idea to participate and what KIND OF CAMPS DID YOU take part of?
First, I participated this summer in Food Not Bomb -camp in Helsinki with my roomate Yusuf from Meltola reception center. He had heard about this opportunity from his teacher and he invited me to take part with him. At Food Not Bombs we were group of 16 people cooking and giving away free food on the streets of Helsinki and talking with people about war, peace and weapons. I have met a lot of ex-refugees and talked with them – they were all very happy and proud of me and this idea. In Africa a lot of them were selling weapons and guns in order to get money to buy food.
My second camp was Keuruu Ecovillage in the Central Finland. Together with 12 more people we were living in community of 30 people in a village and helping with garden, taking care of goats, picking berries and other daily tasks. It was a new thing to me, to see a people who are not related to each other, to live like a big family. And to see them deciding everything equally together.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
Both camps were to me like a free school. I have learned so much about Finnish culture and how Finnish people communicate. It is very different from Arab countries. Also I have first time played floorball which I liked very much. I played the piano. I have learned how to take care of goats. I learned some Japanese and and Czech words. I found out how is to live in Lapland, I have learned about Sami people, their languages and music. I hope to learn some Sami words. I like learning new languages! Also I was able to speak in Turkish with Turkish girls who took part of the camp. I lived and worked in Turkey for one year after I had to leave Damascus in 2014, so learned it. And I also learned a lot of things about Food Not Bombs -project. On both camps I ate vegetarian food and I liked it. It was the first time that I tried soya. I have more energy and I don’t smoke so much.
These have been the two best weeks in my one year of staying in Finland. I woke up happy and I went to sleep happy. I am happy that I could show to the people that refugees are not sitting and sleeping and being lazy, but they can contribute and they are just as all other people who want to live happy.
I liked cooking arabic food for everybody and that people liked it. I enjoyed in floor ball and karaoke night very much. I now have a lot of friends from everywhere that I would like to visit.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY FOR OTHERS INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING OR KVT?
That the refugees should stop just sitting and waiting in their room in reception center and be depressing and negative and do something, change environment, meet new people, be positive, learn and contribute and to be useful. I will for sure tell everybody about this opportunity as my friend Yusuf told me.
**Ibrahim’s participation to KVT workcamps was made possible by the Awakening Awereness Initative (Yhteistä ymmärrystä), which offers the possibility to asylum seekers living in Finland to take part on KVT’s Finnish workcamps. This initiative started six years ago and has now become one of our core activities. In 2016 the funding came from our sister branch SCI Switzerland. The funding covers the travel costs of the asylum seekers, while the food and accommodation during the camp is be provided for free.
WHY TAKE PART? International workcamps bring together people to work for a common goal to projects which benefit the local communites. Voluntary workcamps create new shared experiences and friendships between people from all backgrounds. Taking part of a camp is a great way of volunteering in Finland and being an active part of our society.