Community centres and ACTive NGOs

Maria Tiilikkala – Working at municipality level in Espoo, I work very closely with NGOs, so I get to see both sides. We have many different NGO houses. Our coordination group is very active, and I am personally very satisfied to see that people were very proactive, proving to adapt very quickly to the shift. Food distribution has been a priority in order to serve the elderly and other people living in isolation. Volunteers are doing most of the work: Espoo is a big city in Finland, and due to bureaucracy the municipality has been obviously slower. We need to learn how to work faster in order to solve immediate problems. One of them is communication: there are many foreigners in Espoo, and we are doing our best to avoid what happened in many foreign communities in Sweden, where unfortunately there have been cases of death partly related to the lack of fast and proper information addressed to people who don’t speak the language. We have been building an online helpdesk that started operating on April 7th. 25 people are chatting and answering the phone in 15 languages. It was clear for everyone that we would be doing this together. A very positive sign and an interesting side of the crisis.

Irina Vasiljeva  – In Latvia one important program is related to food delivery. We are recruiting volunteers, but of course we need to have each of them trained and checked before they can start helping others, so it takes some time. Of course, we are doing a lot to spread the word and make sure there are volunteers all across the country. People are responding, so I think we are doing a good job.

Tom Goodridge – Our library team is offering story-time online for children, live or recorded. We are also planning an online Easter egg hunt, and we also started to launch new weekly habits that help bringing people together – from a distance, obviously. For example, every Thursday night at 8pm we applaud health workers. I hope these can make people more aware of how important community building is.

Petra Marcinko – We are seeing an increasing level of awareness regarding the situation, so younger activists and volunteers are getting closer to older generations, listening more to their needs and doing their best to look after them. I actually think this played a crucial role in keeping the number of infections so low in the city.

Levente Polyák – I’m part of a foundation called Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre that organises cultural events in the courtyards of historical buildings. It usually takes place every year at the beginning of May, and of course we will not be able to do it this year, so we thought about how we could move this online, trying to foster communication and cooperation between people in the hopes that this will also teach them more about active and collaborative citizenship.