Stories and publications

17.01.2015

Bold actions that are overlooked

When I was 23, I would’ve definitely known the answers to the following: What is a bold action? What are bold people like? I was so sure of myself at the age of 23 that I probably would’ve also known all about bold research, journalism and their combination.

I no longer know such things. I am 40 now. Now, most things seem more complicated. In fact, opposites often seem to be “true” at the same time.

I’m currently part of a group of two researchers and two journalists. We are working on a project in Vuosaari, which is part of the larger Is Finland Becoming Polarised? project and is funded by the Kone Foundation. Vuosaari is Helsinki’s largest district and the future of Finland can be seen here in miniature: there are council flats, fancy upmarket flats with sea views, detached houses, and blocks of flats where most residents are immigrants and almost every balcony has a satellite dish. There are two migratory flows into Vuosaari: 1. Finland is becoming increasingly urbanised as people move from the countryside into cities and towns. 2. Finland is becoming increasingly multicultural as people move from other countries to Finland.

To ask whether Finland is becoming polarised is not a particularly bold thing to do in Vuosaari. But Vuosaari is an extremely interesting place to study the way in which Finland is polarising and what we can learn from this.

You will meet a lot of bold people in Vuosaari. It is not bold to live in an eastern suburb of Helsinki, with a large immigrant population and also home-grown, purely Finnish social problems. Vuosaari is an exceptionally beautiful place to live, right by the sea. It is easy to see why people fall in love with the place and talk about their neighbourhood like tourist guides.

But life in Vuosaari is not always simple or beautiful to look at for the teachers, doctors or social and youth workers in Vuosaari, for example.

While we study, observe, ask and watch from the sidelines, they actually participate. There seems to be a huge difference there. Gradually we also get to participate, too, which is brilliant: hold a workshop, help provide mother-tongue course assignments and analyse results. But we remain visitors in their everyday life.

Most journalists, myself included, are motivated by a sense of making the world a better place. The purpose of our work is to make a difference in society.

The teachers in Vuosaari don’t always have the best students or the most supportive parents. They don’t shine in school rankings or award each other with fancy prizes. Just today one of them said that it is an ideological choice to work here, a place where all the best students are being taught at special schools elsewhere in the city. Another teacher said that it’s her life mission to improve students’ self-esteem. To make them see what they can achieve, what’s within their reach.

A teacher can do that, or at least try. They don’t always succeed.

I still don’t know how to define boldness but during our project I have learned something and of this I am absolutely certain:

it is a bold choice to better the world and make a difference in society within the walls of a school, in the class room, in the lives of individual students. In a place where no-one bothers to come and thank you for your bold initiatives.

 

Author

Reetta Räty

Master of social sciences, journalist