Where are they Now: Meri

Los Alamos
Los Alamos

Continuing with the “Where are they now” blog series, today we’re talking to another of our very dear former volunteers, Meri. She volunteered with us in 2010 from February to July and returned for short visits in 2011 and in 2013.
She organized field trips, conducted home visits, worked with the women’s group, helped with some classes and administrative work as well. She really liked the fact that she could get involved with many aspects of the work and take a lot of responsibility.

“I think my career path has been quite diverse. After upper secondary school I first lived in Austria, then studied early childhood education for a couple of years, lived in Italy in between and then switched my studies into Romance Languages, volunteered in Morocco, studied in Chile, volunteered in Bolivia, returned to Finland and finally ended my Masters in languages and Development Studies.”

What’s keeping you busy these days?
I live in Helsinki and work as a volunteer coordinator for a small grass-roots organisation called Kansainvälinen vapaaehtoistyö ry KVT (the Finnish Branch of Service Civil International), which is dedicated to promoting a culture of peace by organizing international voluntary projects. We have partners all around the world and send volunteers to projects from 2 weeks to 12 months. In addition we organise short-term volunteering projects in Finland and offer volunteering possibilities to asylum seekers and immigrants. One of the partners where we now send volunteers is LLI, receiving five volunteers from us this year!

LLI Pinatas_Meri-Ellie
LLI Pinatas: Meri & Ellie
Yo quiero justicia_womens group
Yo quiero justicia: womens group
Sarah's photo_zone S
Meri with the women participants in zone S. Photo credit: Sarah
LLI Anniversary 2010
LLI Anniversary 2010
Team Ellie_Amy_Corenna and Meri
Team Ellie, Amy, Corenna and Meri

For the past three years I have also been involved in a project in Mali, which is aiming to create sustainable livelihoods to women in rural areas outside of the capital city Bamako. The project has established a women’s Shea butter cooperative, microloans in several villages and communal vegetable gardens. My trip to Mali in 2013-14 has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life!
Favorite memory from LLI days.
It’s really hard since they are so many! I was very much involved with the women’s project in 2010 and I really loved working with it. Loved sharing that experience with the women, getting to know all of them and working with a great team of people! I have such joyful memories of the whole group.
Do you feel your experience with LLI has helped your career path or your personal development?
It did reassure to me the path that I was thinking I would like to take and gave a lot of perspective and ideas for the future. It made me see that I was really passionate about women’s issues and that I do like when the tasks are really varied and many things happen at the same time. I like working with volunteers, it does create a different kind of very interesting dynamics. It was also fascinating to see another way of NGO administration. In Finland we rely heavily on government funding, which gives another kind of challenges (a lot of reporting and grant writing), but also security in terms of long-term management. This might however be changing – with the current government this security might disappear and we need to seek new kinds of models of funding our work.

Are you still in touch with any past LLI volunteers? Who?
I have stayed in touch with Whitney (she even came to visit me in Finland), Cristina, my roommie Ellie and Amy through Facebook (not as often as I would like to though). Also, all the others from our first team – Dana, Ash, Corenna, Serena, Julie and others – I hope you are all well, and would like to get in touch with you more often. I live in Finland and it’s far away from everything and everybody else, but I do hope that you all come to visit! Or maybe we should have a get together somewhere?

Would you like to give a shout out to a dear friend from LLI and leave a nice message for them to read on our blog and make their day?
My shout out would to the Peruvian staff of LLI. Queta, Dina, Oscar and Tito! Thank you all so much for interesting conversation and your friendship a I still miss Dina’s food, my late night chats with Oscar and the advices of Queta. I also want to give a shoutout Elena, the super lady from zone Z, with whom I do not get in touch as often as I should.

In 5 words describe your experience with LLI.
Though-provoking, multidimensional, empowering, joyful and challenging. Can I add a sixth word? That would be Friendship.

5 random facts about yourself 🙂
1.     My Spanish is a real mixture of different accents. I originally learned it in Chile, but was living there with Mexicans and a Brasilian. Then volunteered in Bolivia and after that spent few years speaking it mainly with Spaniards and Peruvians. Often I don’t know which vocabulary to use with whom!

2.     I grew up in Eastern Finland on an organic farm, but would NEVER have a farm myself, it’s too much work.

3.     I am a cry baby – I cry of joy, anger, frustration, sadness or if something’s really funny. Give me a really bad movie and I will cry. Can be a bit awkward sometimes.

4.     I am still sticking with my old fashioned Nokia mobile phone. So just phone calls and text messages for me.

5.     I am really outdated of any new music, my musical knowledge hardly passes the 70’s, but I do know well the European music of 1700s and 1800s. The first time that I heard about iPod, I thought it was a band.

Sinsibere women group_Bougoula-Mali
Sinsibere women group_Bougoula-Mali
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