Jenni Lohvansuu

Jenni Lohvansuu

I am a final year postgraduate student at Stirling University but completed my undergraduate degree in Finland, where I was born and raised. Throughout the trip, I found it interesting to be able to draw parallels between the three countries – Finland, Scotland, and Canada – all of which are affluent Western welfare states and share some similarities, for example in terms of long cold winters and their vast rural areas.
When learning about Canada’s First Nations and indigenous populations heritage, traditions, reciprocal relationship with nature and land, as well as their historical and current relationship with the state of Canada I had the opportunity to reflect on what I know about Finnish indigenous populations of Sami people, and found striking similarities between the two. This, together with the first hand experiences we were honoured to be invited to be part of, and the learning we gained about the significance of indigenous knowledge when working with indigenous communities, helped me to appreciate what Les Jerome, a social work lecturer at the University of Calgary, reminded us about: regardless of our background or status, as humans we are more alike than we are different.
I was truly inspired by the presentations we heard from community social workers in Calgary. Although service user involvement in service planning and development is not completely unheard of in neither Scotland nor Finland, there is a lot we could draw from the Canadian perspective of empowering communities and utilising social workers and third sector services to build up not only capacities of individuals and families, but also those of communities. The most significant point from community development perspective that I will take with me to my future practice is being reminded of that sustainable services are developed in an open dialogue with communities, which allows mapping resources, supporting engagement and evaluating results effectively.