In the past two years when this course was run, I found myself drawing closer to the world’s “real problems”…and this year too I have the same feeling.
Soon after we started the course, on the 25th of April, calamity struck Nepal in the form a terrible earthquake. The tragedy touches us even more deeply because so many students in our midst have their homes in Nepal. Thousands lost their lives and many more are injured. In our busy university lives, most of us cannot easily make the time to ponder about our social obligations; DeCo fills the gap by providing a place to express feelings and support for the victims. That may have prompted us to donate more to help the victims. What’s equally important, though, is that we engage ourselves in the discussion of the rebuilding of the towns and institutions for the work is going to be long and there will be other opportunities along the way to contribute.
Here in Finland, the adopted home for many of us foreigners, a new government comes to power. Prime-Minister-to-be Juha Sipilä has declared that one of the first objectives is to save money and has called upon the society to play a big part in this. What’s the role for students in this task? Saving power may seem old-fashioned but it is as relevant now as it ever was. Another is saving food. At our recent DeCo camp, in spite of very good arrangements by Elli, our Project Coordinator, two big apple pies were left over.
The theme for this year is “Global Economies in Students’ Daily Lives”. A student of economics or international business may wonder whether we are dealing with issues related to the economy and he wouldn’t be off the mark. Indeed we are dealing with issues that makes the money go around, but we are looking more closely at the human face of these issues.
Consider the documentary on the textile industry in Bangladesh that we screened during DeCo’s kick-off camp at Nummi Pusula. This small country in Asia, which has a population density of more than sixty times that of Finland, has to its credit, attracted the biggest retailers. The documentary wasn’t singing the industry’s praises, though; sadly even a seemingly innocuous trade like textile hasn’t been spared globalization’s abuses. The narrative was about a textile factory buildings that caught fire and another one that collapsed, in both cases killing and wounding hundreds of workers. In both the cases, the workers were making garments for the biggest names in fashion, such as Walmart and Gap, but these companies have shirked away from taking any responsibility for the accidents.
This is the third time that METKA has applied for funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the third time it succeeded. Every year the project has a new theme, but the spirit of development cooperation runs through all of them. What’s more, the bond that DeCo has with its past members is still very alive. When we published the news about starting this year’s project, our well-wishers were many. Among them were METKA’s former International Affairs Specialist Tina Kortelainen, who compiled the documents for the first project, and Susanna Halinen, who was the coordinator for the first one. When we asked for volunteers for giving presentations for our camp, Tanja Saariaho, a past student of DeCo, jumped to the opportunity. At the camp she presented her experiences at Accra, Ghana, where she had interned with a children’s rights foundation.
In my opinion it is incredible that even in these tough times, METKA has been able to obtain funding for the course. A big reason for METKA securing the funding is the project application that Kaisa Oikarinen, the previous Development Coordinator, put in place. Praise for Kaisa have come even from KEPA, whose officer mentioned to me about how very detailed and well-thought the plan was. The plan not only give us a head start, but reminds us, Elli and myself, of the responsibility to execute the course in a manner that befits this excellent planning.
By Aditya Kelekar, METKA’s Member of the Board