The situation in Finland has changed in recent years and we face a new kind of poverty. While citizens and people with European Union health insurance card benefit from a well-developed social security system, we have a growing number of people who are not entitled to social benefits such as health care, unemployment and child benefits. Emmaus Helsinki wanted to address this emergency situation and founded a cooperative which employs marginalized immigrants.
Our cooperative Osuuskunta Työtä ja toivoa (Work and Hope) employs migrant women and men at risk of poverty and exclusion in the Finnish society. They mostly come from Southeast Europe, representing various cultures and languages. These people do official work such as cleaning, gardening, repair etc. Our employees sign a work contract, we help them get a Finnish identity number and tax card. All the work is « above the table » and our clients are entitled to tax reductions on their invoice. We also organize basic training to our employees and help them in all kinds of issues.
Originating from countries where they faced discrimination and marginalization, their access to the labour market in Finland is also very difficult and limited. The Labour Pool wants especially to emphasize the abilities and talents of the women who engage in the project. It supports the further training, development and integration of the women, as well as a space to tell their stories and connect with a broader public.
The Emmaus Labour Pool is devoted to bringing changes in the lives of individuals and communities and is run as a social project that does not generate profit in regards to these services. It provides encounters for different people who live in the city, while providing a solution for those who need to avoid cleaning-related stress.
Our clients are mostly individuals but we have had a couple of progressive organisations as clients (Green Party, an Non Governmental Organisation -NGO called Without Permanent Home).
Members of the cooperative and the board consist mostly of members of Emmaus Helsinki. Our group has also financed the start of the cooperative and running costs. About 10 people from Emmaus are directly involved.
Day centre for mobile immigrants, Helsinki Deaconess Institute, Helsinki street paper Iso Numero (Big Issue).
Emmaus Helsinki budgeted 20 000 euros for 2017 to start this initiative. In February we employed one person to coordinate the project with 50 % work time. During the first three months she researched all legal implications, worked on setting up the web place, finding the first two employees and organizing their training. She discovered that running this business by Emmaus might jeopardize our status as non-profit NGO. We decided on a separate cooperative and founded it in May.
Our aims for Keikkapooli by the end of 2019 :
- to have given jobs to 30 people
- to have two employees with at least 18 hours work per week
- to have cooperative running without external funding
Together with a big Finnish social organization, Helsinki Deaconess Institute, we have applied for two year project funding from European Social Fund.
With the same partner we are starting a new initiative aiming at helping Roma people in their home village so that they would not have to leave their home to find means for living by begging or collecting bottles. From the beginning of 2018 this two year project works with a local Bulgarian organisation to support and empower local people (mostly women) in a Bulgarian village.
The actual jobs started in the end of May. For the first 6 months we have employed 5 women and one man, have had about 40 separate jobs and 38 clients, 8 of them regular. Altogether we have been able to provide about 246,5 work hours in home cleaning. We have succeeded in helping people in the most vulnerable situation, our clients have had contact with Roma people and vice versa which has helped overcome prejudices. Our employees have received money for living from work instead of begging and this has supported their self esteem.
Our initiative has had publicity: our biggest newspaper wrote big two page interview of our two employees, a radio program mentioned it, our street paper Iso Numero places our advertisement for free. We have also managed to publish a report of our own in three local newspapers.
Our biggest challenge is homelessness of our employees and their health care. We need also more clients to become self-sufficient. It means more work on overcoming prejudices and telling about our initiative. Training of our employees must be organized in regular basis.