After 6 weeks working with the refugee resettlement agency, we were finally able to host our first social event! Since the women lived in scattered areas around Helsinki and do not have easy access to transportation, scheduling events which people can actually attend is a challenge for the agency. I have learned throughout this internship to make the most of what we are able to do. What was initially supposed to be an Eid celebration with refugees and Finnish women had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather, but rescheduling made it so the Finnish women who were supposed to attend were unable to do so. The goals of the event were to provide the women with a relaxing space to cook while socializing and building connections with Finnish women. We were able to provide the first two. Many of the women love cooking, but since they often live in reception centers, they do not have access to kitchens and must eat in the cafeteria. This is a seemingly small freedom that is unavailable to them when they come to Finland.
After communicating with them, we decided that we would purchase ingredients so they could show us how to make biryani. It was the most enjoyable time I’ve had in Finland. The event was hosted in a teaching kitchen called Martha. Six women attended along with some children. We had a wonderful time enjoying a meal together, even though there was a considerable language barrier.
When I tell people I’m working for a refugee resettlement agency, it often sounds like the work I’m doing is helping others more than it helps me. While I hope that is partially true, it seems that I am learning more from these strong, loving, and talented women than they could ever learn from me.