A group of Metropolia students invited asylum seekers to workshops in order to re-create objects they had lost on their way to Finland and turned the process into a web exhibition. The aim was to find innovative ways to give asylum seekers a voice.
In Metropolia University of Applied Sciences all students take part in Innovation Projects (8 ECTS), which are carried out in multidisciplinary groups. They aim at finding solutions to current challenges on the labour market. This particular challenge was presented by the Punavuori Reception Centre.
“Asylum seekers are often perceived only as a threat or as passive targets to help. However, they have plenty of work and life experience enabling them to contribute genuinely to the Finnish society. Additionally many surely want to. We need to change their image and find ways to allow them to contribute too,” says Minna Tuovinen, the Deputy Director of the reception centre.
During the exploratory phase of the innovation project students came up with an idea to organize workshops, which would allow residents of the reception centre to draw, cut and glue, sow, mold or paint objects they lost as they fled their country of origin or on their way to Finland. Suitable materials were collected among staff and students, and publicity for the workshops was made.
The set of workshops was truly a success story. Although it’s common that for asylum seekers committing to long processes is difficult, many residents of the Punavuori Reception Centre wanted to participate in all consecutive workshops. They were clearly excited about objects they had produced, as they proudly circulated pictures of them afterwards among friends and staff of the reception centre.
During workshops participants for example sowed clothes, painted pictures of places they saw while fleeing and recreated a boat. “I’ve made this boat out of clay. It reminds me of my journey from Iran and time on the boat to Finland. I had to leave everything behind, but I still love my country,” the creator of the boat said.
Students photographed the workshops and collected stories attached to the objects. They turned this documentation into a web exhibition and produced a trailer advertising it.
The possibility to produce something with a personal significance had a strong, emotional impact on the residents of the reception centre. “It was not easy to leave Iraq and it was not easy to come to Finland,” said one of the workshop participants in a party, which was arranged to launch the web exhibition. “But when I participated in this project, I felt at home.”
Also Tuovinen presented her content. “It was impressive to see, how students managed to encourage our clients to make use of their talents. This web exhibition is a marvelous reminder of the fact that the asylum seekers have a lot of potential and they are capable of creating things themselves, when they are given an opportunity to do so,” the Deputy Director of Punavuori Reception Centre concluded.
Outcomes of the Innovation project “Voice of Asylum Seeker” carried out by students of Metropolia:
Story: Mai Salmenkangas, Senior Lecturer at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences