From the beginning of the exceptional circumstances, it has been clear for the staff of Yhdessä Selviytymisen Tuki YSTI ry that you have to take care of your target groups. YSTI ry is a registered association that provides communal social services. In every unit of the association, the staff has created new ways to work and kept regularly in contact with the clients. YSTI ry is run in Hervanta, Tampere.

School children have been met outdoors and in social media

Toimela is an easy access place for hanging out for school children from 7 to 15 years old. The unit focuses on preventative early youth work. Before the exceptional circumstances, the staff of Toimela has been meeting children and teens face to face in its own facilities. In the spring during the corona pandemic, Toimela’s staff created new ways to work and updated their social media channels. In addition to this, almost every working day, the staff went outdoors three times daily in the area of Hervanta.

In autumn 2019 and spring 2020, the staff contacted the most frequent visitors and their caretakers personally via 1,009 phone calls or SMS messages. From 15 March to 15 May 2020, Toimela’s staff went outdoors 101 times to meet its visitors in the area of Hervanta. They met 958 children and teens outdoors and 2,979 visitors online. During the corona crisis, the unit has got 1,303 WhatsApp contacts.

Within two months, Toimela lent 144 books, magazines, or DVD-movies to school children. Furthermore, Toimela gave out 415 free action packets and 60 balloons for the May Day celebration. Toimela also gave the opportunity to plant ryegrass and flowers on Mother’s Day.

The employees went out for walks to feed wild ducks, throw Frisbee and orienteer with the help of images with 204 children and young people as well as with a couple of caretakers. The instructor took care of safety distances and hygiene and made sure that there were only 1 to 4 children outdoors at the same time.

The unit organised an online live disco on Instagram and on Facebook on 8 May 2020. On May Day’s eve on 30 May, they organised one on YouTube as well. The staff held weekly quizzes and gave out easy recipes for snacks and meals, and videos. Individual support was provided if needed.

The following comments during the corona period describe well the meaning of Toimela for the families of the area:

‘Your work is important.’ ‘Thank you for existing.’ ‘You are the only organization that works outdoors.’ ‘I miss you.’ ‘Can my child come outdoors with you, they’ve got bored with us parents?’ ‘Your work is valuable.’ ‘You are wonderful’. ‘Has Toimela already opened?’

15-74 years old people have been reached on Facebook and Zoom

Täky organises free of charge drug-free leisure time activities, little trips, and meeting activities for small groups of adults without obligation.

In the exceptional circumstances, Täky has moved its meeting activities on virtual platforms. The members of Täky can meet on four days a week both on Zoom and on Facebook. The Facebook group can be accessed only by invitation. The Facebook group has 30 members and the discussion goes beyond other themes than corona. At the end of the day, the instructors share a link or a theme that could help in the exceptional circumstances.

On the Zoom platform, the members have been producing content such as quizzes and special quizzes about music. The members of Täky have got the possibility to visit the home of one of the members virtually to get to know about their doll house hobby. Weekly, they have also went jogging together via video call.

The members of Täky have went online to meet in groups. ‘In the group for good mood’, the home school tasks are being solved together via video calls. The members of handicraft groups receive the hobby materials in advance before meeting first time online. That way the preconditions have been arranged for doing together from home on Zoom. The experiment turned out to work very well and to be popular, so the organisers decided to arrange a second class.

Sirkuskahvila, a circus cafe owned by Täky and the social circus operator Sirkus Fokus, has also moved from the Duo mall to Zoom. The cafe is a place where you get to be funny and have a good time together. Täky also carried out a questionnaire on the wishes of the visitors for the times of exceptional circumstances. Based on its results, Täky organised, for example, a weekend discussion group.

Older people have received help for shopping and call pals

Verkko provides volunteers that help and support seniors and disabled people in Hervanta.

During the corona pandemic, Verkko has started to provide two kinds of activities: shopping help and call pal activity. At the moment, there are 18 trained volunteers in total.

Shopping help is meant for older people and disabled people living in Hervanta. All volunteers get disposable gloves, hand disinfectant, and a nameplate. Verkko uses a one-off concept in which the volunteer commits to one gig at a time.

The employee of Verkko forwards the shopping list and the client’s address to the volunteer. The groceries are paid with a gift card obtained beforehand by the employee and paid by the client. The groceries are handed over to the client outside their front door. The shopping bags come with greetings collected together with other shopping help providers.

This one-time job has also a social side: the volunteer may stay for a little chat with the client while keeping the distance and cheer each other up. If the client wishes so and the volunteer has time, they can go for a little walk together while keeping the distance.

The Yhdenvertaisesti sinun (‘Equally Yours’) call pal activity matches lonely clients that need someone to talk to with volunteer call pals. The activity is financed by the one-off grant of the city of Tampere. Verkko offers the call pal a phone and a prepaid SIM card. The call pal has one client to call regularly. When corona pandemic ends, they can meet each other. The volunteers will be thanked in the closing party of call pals.

The third new activity is a coffee moment for the volunteers. The volunteers are brought together at the grill cottage of the housing co-operative, which is responsible for the facilities of the association. Since the calendar week 18, five volunteers at a time are personally invited every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 pm. The participants respect the safety distance and good hygiene. Verkko has almost 80 volunteers so there will be plenty of coffee and chat moments before the summer holiday season.

Text: Tanja Juvani

Community Coordinator, Volunteer activities of Verkko/Yhdessä Selviytymisen Tuki YSTI ry

Translator: Mika Kirvesniemi