We grow through overcoming the obstacles
Miia, young person & Lubica, youth worker
Youth Guarantee House in Helsinki, Finland
Miia (23) is one of my favorite young people who has been visiting Youth Guarantee House on a regular basis. She is always polite and friendly. I like her attitude to be interested in whatever occasion and opportunity crosses her path. She actively participates in our activities and has a lot of patience with me. My Finnish language skills are limited but I like to speak with her although there are certain limits that we cannot cross. But our conversations are one of the examples that if both sides try hard, a common understanding is possible. And I appreciate it.

Every Wednesday we have our "Five Stars Meal" day, during which our young people decide what they want to cook. We support them during the whole process if needed. Miia is usually our main chief. She likes to help and cook. Very often she brings her own ideas about what she would like to prepare. She is a very calm and quiet person, but when it comes to cooking or interests in history and other cultures, she is very into the discussions and eager to learn more. Miia respects others and has a good sense of humor.

She has grown through difficulties and become the person she is thanks to all the experiences she has gone through. Child Protection Services are here to help families and children in need. Their aim is to guarantee that all children are being risen up in a safe environment where their physical and mental health is being protected and their potential supported. Miia is one of the children that have been clients of Child Protection Services in Finland.

All of us might have heard many different stories about Child Protection Services, but Miia has first-hand experience. She is what is being called "expert by experience". Her opinions are important because services might be further developed based on the experience of service users and become more accurate and helpful.

This is the reason why Miia participated in the event called Child Welfare Day for Youths. The event was organized with the aim to hear experiences of the young people who have been under child protection services. Young people participated in the discussion with the professionals from child protection services, also with each other and with the members of the Finnish Parliament. Even though the event happened a few years ago, Miia stresses that it is still a crucial experience of her life: "I felt empowered when I attended Youth's Child Protection Days. There I got to say my opinion and have an impact. I noticed that I enjoyed being able to make a positive difference and to be part of the change… I got to say my own experience out loud in front of the people in the same situation as I´ve been through. It felt really good. The best feeling was that someone was listening to me and I could make a difference…"

A situation such as this can also be frightening for many people. Not everyone can or is ready to speak publicly about their experience and share their personal life. How was it for Miia?

"I really felt very positive, joyful, and excited. After this event, I was so thrilled about the fact that I was able to have an influence there, that I was excited and with such a great feeling even for a week after."

During everyday life it may be difficult to find those intensive empowering moments. Many young people have difficulties that are not easy to overcome. Many feel lonely, without friends or a supportive peer network at their disposal. If mental health issues hit, young people might even have difficulties going out of bed or their homes. And that's why a place like the Youth Guarantee House exists. To be there for those, who would otherwise be lonely. Miia also confirms that she can find inspiration and gain strength from "little things, like going to Youth Guarantee House and just getting outside." Things that might feel natural, if you are a completely healthy person, but also as a hassle if you are not.

Expert by experience is the term widely used in Finland. Authorities recognize that one can become an expert not only through formal education but also thanks to their living experience. Miia agrees: "Expertise by experience is important and people who have experienced a different kind of obstacles should get their voice heard when developing the services. Now I would like to go through some official training and educate myself to become an officially recognized expert by experience. I could in that way even better influence things that are important to me."
Miia, young person & Lubica, youth worker
Youth Guarantee House in Helsinki, Finland

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