On the 15th of December, Valentine Vihonen spoke at an event of the WHO on ‘Engaging with religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and faith communities in the WHO European Region on COVID-19 response’. Valentine Vihonen is an expert by experience of the Vamos programme and is employed by our member Helsinki Deaconess Institute.

“Vamos!” is Spanish, and in Finnish it means “Goes!” – This sums up the idea of the Vamos youth service at the Deaconess Institute: let’s go together and move forward! The Helsinki Deaconess Institute supports young people aged 16–29 who are in a difficult situation and who are not in education, employment or training to find their own path. For some young people, life has been complicated by mental health problems, for others by interruptions in studies, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness or, for example, challenges in their close circle.

At the event, Valentine shared her experience with the Vamos programme. “One and a half years ago, my doctor from the psychiatry outpatient clinic referred me to Vamos, the youth services provided by the Deaconess foundation in Finland. After losing my job to covid and not qualifying for social support, I had already spent months on sick leave for my mental health. When I contacted Vamos, my hopes weren’t high, and I didn’t see anything good in my future. With my Vamos-coach, we started by getting my finances in order, and I started attending a group that gave me a reason to wake up in the morning. With the support and confidence that all the coaches gave me, I applied for school and started getting more vocal about the injustices I kept seeing around me,” shared Valentine Vihonen.

She is now working at the Deaconess foundations youth program, and she is excited to begin her bachelor’s in social studies: “I still don’t know what awaits me in the future, but I know it’s something great and if I’ll need help on the way I know who I can turn to”.