Who am I and my path to OmaPolku project
My name is Hope Nwosu. I work as a peer tutor and project worker for the OmaPolku project. I have been involved with the OmaPolku project since the beginning in 2020. Before joining OmaPolku, I worked as a peer tutor in the Niitty project. Linguistic and cultural empowerment of diaspora families is a topic I am passionate about. Working at OmaPolku has motivated me to improve my professional skills through additional trainings, such as the training of Civic orientator trainer and cultural mediator. I am currently studying Social Services at Laurea University of Applied Sciences to deepen my knowledge of the Finnish social system and to be better prepared to provide holistic support to families in their various life situations. In my free time I write short stories. I am also a member of the board of Suomen Pen and a founding member of the Igbo Language and Culture Advancement Initiative ry (ILCAN).
Supporting families along their children's educational and career paths
Supporting families from immigrant backgrounds has always been close to my heart. One of the main reasons why I joined OmaPolku was to offer support to families as they help to guide their children on their educational and career paths in Finland. As a parent of school-age children, I find it empowering to connect with other parents who have similar situations. Sharing my professional and personal experiences with people who are integrating into Finnish society builds community, as well. As we know, education is the foundation of any society, and for many immigrants, integration means, among other things, choosing the right educational and career path and a sense of belonging to society.
Empowering parents - questions and answers in peer groups
My experience of running peer groups, both online and face-to-face, has shown that OmaPolku has filled a hole in many parents' efforts to better support their wards' education and careers in Finland. I have seen parents empowered by the information they gain from our peer groups. Many parents who participate in peer groups have many questions about the Finnish education system and how they can support their wards in their future careers. At the end of the meetings, parents not only get practical information on how to navigate the maze, but also peer support from other parents in the same boat. The positive feedback I have received from parents has motivated me to continuously improve my facilitation skills to better support families. Peer groups have been a good channel to address parents' assumptions and feelings of discrimination in Finland. Our groups have discussed, among other things, the criteria used to place pupils in Finnish as a second language (S2) classes and the importance of language in effective communication between home and school. I have seen and heard parents sigh with relief after receiving information about the workings of the Finnish educational system from our peer groups. Parents wish they had known about OmaPolku earlier and would like to see this kind of activity available in the future. As a peer tutor, meeting parents from different socio-cultural backgrounds has taught me to be sensitive to each participant's experience of integration into Finnish society. Fortunately, I have not felt left all alone to answer parents' questions in peer groups. The support of experts such as teachers, guidance counsellors and OmaPolku experts has been invaluable and this has encouraged me to do my best.
The future and the change - how to take all parties into account in Finnish education
If I could change anything in the Finnish educational system, I would like Finland’s educational offerings to be more inclusive — taking the various backgrounds and needs of immigrant families into greater account. I would also like to see more proactive cooperation between school and home. Some parents believe that the Finnish-language basic and upper secondary education is designed for native Finns, and that there is little consideration for those without fluent language skills, it would be worthwhile to address this cooperatively between the school and home.
My experience with OmaPolku
OmaPolku has been a great learning experience for me. Through meeting parents, I listened to and respected the lived experience of each participant of discrimination or unfair treatment by someone in a position of authority. Peer groups taught me the value of being non-judgmental. My facilitation skills developed significantly while working with the OmaPolku project. As a peer tutor I am happy when I hear and see parents sharing their experiences and supporting one another.