Onni Hart, 31, intern for volunteer work, Finnish Refugee Council

Onni Hart

My parents met 33 years ago as health workers in a development cooperation NGO in Bangladesh. In 2012 we all returned to the 40th anniversary party of the NGO. The NGO is still working and is run by local people, with many women in leading positions, which is very encouraging for a developing Muslim country.

Coming back to Finland I wanted to become active in issues that mattered to me and the world, and to shift my career path away from pure business. I had been working for example in an American hotel, where one of my best co-workers was a refugee woman from Iraq trying to support her children.

About a year ago I started as an enthusiastic volunteer for the Finnish Refugee Council (FRC) and immediately became a fan of the organization. I learned a lot about refugee issues and got to do socially significant things and participate in civic activism with like-minded people.

After I became unemployed, the employment agency recommended an internship in the FRC, I applied and got a job coordinating volunteer activities. We organize meetings with volunteers and visit asylum seekers, for example. I’ve had the chance to hear of the bleak conditions refugees arrive from and to see how grateful they are of small things.

With our volunteers we organize recreational evenings every two weeks for the people living in a refugee centre waiting for their asylum decisions. Yesterday we went bowling; 19 people from various countries and situations, all together participating in playful competition. I couldn’t help thinking that there is still some hope in the world. Also seeing all the children, who already know a lot of Finnish, communicating fluently in many languages makes me think the future is in their hands. I feel encouraged that the children are soon going to be out in the world, making it better for future generations; they don’t want their experiences repeated.

The people I get to work with are the best part of my days, everyone is dedicated trying to make the world a better place. The passion people have is contagious and people really engage in their work without advertising their expertise. I feel good after every day of work, which is inspiring.

1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at UNHCR.org