Hello! My name is Johnny Abdallah, and I am currently a second year bachelor’s degree student of social services, studying at Helsinki’s Diaconia University of Applied Sciences. I feel privileged to have been selected by the Jade II Project for my second practical placement. Each placement in my university’s curriculm is centered around a theme related to the particular area of studies which we have been focusing on during each respective semester. For this autumn’s placement the theme has to do with social work methods and professional skills which enable social inclusion. In the case of the Jade II Project, the target group would be elderly immigrants.
But how did I come to know about the Jade II Project, and decide upon it for a practical placement? It began when my study group visited the first incarnation of the project in the latter half of 2015. During the visit we were introduced to both Kantin Pysäkki service home and the Jade II Project. After hearing about the inspiring work they do, I approached Susanna Lehtovaara – the project manager – and mentioned my interest. Not long after I contacted her and we set up a meeting. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Today concludes my first of 7 weeks with the project, and it is with deep humility and appreciation that I can say the first week exceeded expectation. The team, which comprises Susanna, Fardoos and Suvi, have warmly welcomed me. From a learning standpoint I feel I will be able to gain much from my experience here, and I have already been fortunate to have taken an active role in working with the 3 main groups, planning topics for discussion and activities based on their wishes. Working with the elderly, and perhaps more specifically elderly people of immigrant background, is of interest to me because of my personal feelings about my own grandparents, with whom I enjoyed close relationships with, as well as the social exclusion affecting our ageing population.
Although the elderly are a profoundly diverse group, they are often socially excluded due to the fact that our society thrives upon the productivity of those who are of working age. Of course, the assumption that an individual’s worthwhile contribution to society diminishes the closer they are to the age of retirement is wrong. In other cultures, such as in some African countries, an elderly person is greatly valued and respected for their wisdom and life experience. Moreover, the diversity of this group can be seen in the various activities which many elderly people are involved in despite their advanced years or failing health, from volunteer work to practicing an array of hobbies. Some even return to working life because of a want to be productive and feel needed – something common to every one of us.
Despite this fact, however, the prevailing views are often negative. Now, add to this the matter of not being able to speak the language of the society in which you live, and/or not having a family or support network of any kind, and the extent to which you are socially excluded increases tenfold. In addition to the general exclusion faced by the elderly, those of immigrant background have these added handicaps, and so more targeted work is needed in order to facilitate their inclusion, and improve their well-being.
It is for this reason that the Jade II Project exists, and I am very proud to be even a small part of the work they do in order to better the life situation of the ageing migrant. I look forward to the experiences and knowledge which can be gained by embarking on this important journey, both in terms of my studies and life in general. Thank you for letting me join you!