During the spring, the project conducted two support groups with the aim of giving information and tools to Estonians living in the capital region. The project counted with a Estonian-speaking facilitator, Maive Saar, who was in charge of arranging the sessions. Her work, in the figure of a peer, proved to be of great value: by close communication and constant contact with the interested participants, she could identify their actual needs and wishes of topics they wanted to learn about, and she shaped the sessions according to this information.
This is a real successful example on the importance of peer support in a pilot project: initially, the survey had identified specific needs in terms of what the Estonian participants needed and wanted support with. By contacting them, the facilitator could expand on the topics of interest for them, and make an even more comprehensive schedule.
The first group had seven participants and met during eight weeks. This group had job search and employment as a specific theme. Every weekly meeting addressed carefully this topic: the group worked several times and in depth on their CV, they had a preparation session on how to go to an interview and had the visit of experts in the field who provided accurate information regarding the job seeking process, formal tools to have at hand and organisations and unions that protect the worker.
Maive, as a facilitator, took care of being in constant touch with them during the meetings but also afterwards, asking and taking into consideration the participants’ feedback. This was overall positive, and it showed once again that even with a simple session on working together on a CV, this is uplifting, encouraging and empowering. There is also the component of working in a group, in where participants get support, feedback and perspective.
The second group had a looser format, since this was also gathered from the participants’ feedback: people have jobs to attend, children to care for, and other leisure activities that they want to be part of. Even if the majority of times a peer support group requires for participants to commit, there has to be flexibility in this requirement, and precisely accommodating this need proved to be quite successful. The facilitator, in cooperation with the rest of the project team, organised “open theme evenings” that functioned as peer support encounters in where a different variety of themes were discussed based on the upcoming needs of the participants- Themes ranged from learning about health services in the capital region from an expert in the field, job seeking tools, and watching and discussing a documentary on Finnish history. The group met four times and participation ranged from 6 to 10 people attending.
Overall, this first part of the project has benefited the participants in giving more information and tools on different topics. It has created for them a wider network of support, and it has also given Luckan insight of how a peer support group can be executed in different ways, from more commitment to more flexibility.