These activities bring us together
Edmond is a Ghanaian living in Helsinki. He has been involved in the YMCA Helsinki activities for four years, originally by an introduction to sports. He volunteers as a football coach with TAT Activities.
We have a community group at the YMCA Helsinki for all kinds of international sports such as basketball and futsal. Having a strong background in sports, football in particular, I started volunteering and coaching in the sport group early on. In the summertime we can train outside, but for the rest of the year– and that is a long period, as we know – we train indoors. We get together on a regular basis, most often once a week.
For the international community interested in exercising, with TAT and the YMCA, it is easier for us to have some sports facilities that we all can access. Attending private indoors sports locations can become very expensive. But there’s another, more important, dimension to TAT; These activities bring us together. In our diverse group, there are people from all around the world and from all walks of life. From a sports group it has evolved to a community and an international group of friends. We get together, not only with activities involving sports, but to discuss different topics and share ideas. We cook and have dinners and soirées together. We do also have family gatherings once a month.
One thing I have noticed is that people also change along with where they environmentally live. Right from the edge of coast in Ghana all the way up here – further you make your way, less people get together. Ghanaians share in many ways the same southern way of living as people do in Italy or Greece. Come late hours of the afternoon, people come and sit outside together, they chat and talk. But when you come to the northern part of Europe, it gradually changes. Apart from the beautiful summertime, people stay at home all the time and there is far less socializing. The mentality often makes people feel isolated. Sports help people to cope with it, the long winters and the feeling of isolation.
How would it be if there were no activities like this? There would be a lot missing, that’s for sure. The existence of organizations such as the YMCA is important for many people who aren’t originally from this part of the world. People may struggle finding a job, a career path and setting up a way of living here. The YMCA makes it easier to get to know the society. In a community such as ours, you realize there are other people in a similar situation having to deal with settling in. But the group wouldn’t exist without us bringing ourselves and each other together. It is up to us to keep it going. Because of my knowledge in sports, I also bring some impact and can share it with my peers. There is a meaningful aspect, because I can contribute to the shared experience.
TAT Activities (Toiminnan Avulla Työelämään) by the YMCA Helsinki offers many kinds of services, leisure time activities and a positive and interactive environment. Regardless of their individual reasons for migration, people may have difficulties getting to know a society that doesn’t provide an easy access. TAT Activities has been developed to meet some of the needs of the international citizens in the Helsinki area by offering information on the employment opportunities and networking events. But just as much TAT Activities is about well-being, peer support and a platform with low threshold. Along with access to the labour market, it is essential to establish spaces in the city that make room for multicultural narratives and diverse experiences of being and living in Finland. The goal of TAT Activities is to empower diversity both on the individual level and as a community. As such, it has found its unique way of creating agency.