Reflections on Finland

Reflections on Finland


I wish I could make this complete, but as I’ve already shared my horrendous travel story with the group, it has to go here too.

First up – shout out to the parents who got out of bed at 3am to take me to the airport for a 5.55am flight to Amsterdam. So far so good, I check in quickly, there’s no queues for security and I head to the gate. Boarding is on time, everything looks great, then the Captain announces that there is fog in Amsterdam, and we have a potential wait of 1 hour and 45 min. I am meant to have 1 hour, 35 min on the ground in Amsterdam, but, he says the flight time is actually 55 min. So, I figured not a problem, it’d be tight, but I’d make it.


We take off at 7:40, an after an hour still haven’t landed, the Captain announces we are running out of fuel, and will be going to Rotterdam to refuel, and will then have to file a new flight plan and get a new slot for Amsterdam.  Anyway, it seems to take forever for this to happen, so I get my phone out, turn it one to see I’ve been rebooked onto the 2pm flight to Helsinki, so I message people to let them know what’s going on.

Eventually get to Amsterdam, where I manage to get my new boarding pass, and head to the gate, armed with a large bottle of water.  Then they cancel the Helsinki flight with no reason given.  Short version, I queue for over 3 ½ hours to be told I’m going to Prague for a connecting flight to Helsinki – the next day.   Another queue gets me into a hotel for the night, and I manage to make it to Helsinki the following day, 36 hours after I started, tired, hungry but ready to meet people.


I missed out on visiting the synagogue and the school, so I can’t say anything about those places sadly.  However I did get to meet people in time for our service project in Helsinki, which involved manual labour – just what I needed at that moment in time!


The old cemetery in Helsinki needed cleaning up – short version was it was incredibly overgrown, and there were a lot of leaves and branches all over the place. So we set too, and attempted to clear up. I think we did make a difference, it did look better afterwards. One thing to note is that there are the graves of Finnish soldiers killed in WWII, I didn’t know that they had actually fought against the Russians alongside the Nazis, and then fought off the Nazi’s afterwards. Several had been awarded an Iron Cross, but refused it.

The following day we went to Suomenlinna Island – I’ll leave you to look up the details, but believe me when I say it’s a beautiful place. And also has a place called the “Devil’s Church” which was actually a room used by Jewish soldiers.


Following on from that we visited the care home for the elderly. It could have been depressing, given that we were told that several of the residents were cognitively impaired, instead, it turned into an impromptu karaoke session to try and entertain the residents, I’m not sure all of us could a) sing and b)knew the words, but we tried at least, and after that we had the opportunity to meet a former Finnish soldier who had not only fought the Russians, but had fought with the IDF in 1948. It was inspiring to meet this man, and realise he was a genuine hero and part of history.

So – what have I taken away from this experience so far, and what have I learned that I could pass on to the community in Manchester. Firstly, the community in Finland might be small, but it is vibrant and people want to be involved. There are vibrant Youth programmes that develop future leaders from the teenagers/students in the area. Maybe this is something that the working group dealing with Youth issues on the Rep Council can look into.

Secondly – sometimes all it needs is people to volunteer their time, they don’t need to lead a group, just lend a hand and pitch in, like we did with the cemetery, or give an hour of their time to visit people at The Fed. I’m sure all we need to do is find the opportunities and ways to make them known, but I do know that is a lot easier than it sounds.

Also, Finland is a beautiful country and its people are very welcoming, and most speak great English. Go, visit, have a great time!


It’s on to Estonia now, so stay tuned.



Written By

June 2, 2016 at 2:21 PM



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