From the left Mohamed Hisham Abdulgafor, Linda Bäckman, Hasan Ali Al-Rubaye (Åbo Akademi), Ilir Durmishaj (Föli), Nana Blomqvist (Åbo Akademi), Timo Toljala and Susanna Sutinen (University of Turku), The Year’s New Citizen of Turku Paco Diop, Carina Gräsbeck (Åbo Akademi) and Kari Lehti Turun yliopisto (University of Turku).
Awards go to Paco Diop, the Föli immigrant drivers and the wide-ranging volunteer efforts of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi.
In the dozens of suggestions submitted by Turku residents, the 2017 New Citizen of Turku, Paco Diop, was described as a helpful, kind, hard-working and honest man, who does valuable and unselfish work among the children of Turku.
Among his other efforts last year, Diop established Lasten urheiluseura ry (Children’s Sports Association), which particularly focuses on coaching immigrant children and girls.
Paco Diop moved to Finland from Senegal some ten years ago. In addition to his tasks as a sports coach for children and young people, he works at a day care centre alongside his studies. Diop studies French in the University of Turku and will get his teacher’s degree this year.
The award for Multicultural Act goes to Föli and the volunteer efforts of the universities
“The immigrant drivers of Turku Region Traffic Föli perform their tasks in an exemplary, friendly, conscientious and committed fashion, respecting their customers”, the justifications describe.
The Multicultural Council unanimously found that the drivers who have moved to Turku from abroad highlight the multicultural nature of the city on a broad scale and help reduce prejudice through their attitude towards their work and passengers. Föli’s role as an employer is also a significant factor.
About a third of Föli’s drivers are new citizens of Turku, and the driver’s job is very sought-after.
“By selecting the volunteer efforts of universities as the second area of multicultural work to acknowledge, we emphasise the fact that many residents of Turku are eager to cooperate with those seeking asylum here and want to be involved in integrating the newcomers into society without any personal gain”, Multicultural Council Chairperson Muhis Azizi summarises.
Instead of the more traditional top-down approach, the work has been conducted in cooperation with the new citizens of Turku.
The students, student organisations, faculties and employees of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi have arranged numerous events, seminars, projects and courses related to the asylum seeker situation.
The universities have also actively participated in the social discourse about the position and future of asylum seekers in the Turku region, Finland and Europe, and drawn attention to education, fairness, freedom and those who are less well-off. In terms of influencing values, the various university bodies involved have succeeded in making a difference in the Turku region and even on a wider scale.
The choices were made by the Multicultural Council of Turku
The New Citizen of Turku and Multicultural Act of the year were selected for the 12th time. This year, the choices were made for the first time by the Multicultural Council of Turku based on suggestions provided by Turku residents.
“Turku residents submitted plenty of excellent suggestions for both categories”, Muhis Azizi says. “In their own areas, the award winners of 2017 are making Turku a more tolerant and better city for its residents.”
The awards will be handed out in a celebration for new citizens of Finland to be held at the Volunteer Fire Brigade Building on 28 March.