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Our nationwide training tour started last autumn and went across Finland until coronavirus, COVID-19, stopped the wheels from turning. We had to turn the rest of the training events into an online format. In total, we have organized ten training events in eight different cities, and there is one more online event to come in Swedish, another official language in Finland.
The feedback from the events, and generally about the project has been positive. Participants have felt that they received important tips and new ideas for their daily work. All events were aimed at youth workers and other professionals and volunteers who are working with young people. All training venues have been almost fully packed, and streams have been in maximum limits.
“Based on feedback we can say that all training events and webinars were a success. We have figured out from the feedback that self-study material for youth workers is needed to strengthen youth workers’ competences.”, project manager Mika Pietilä says.
Koordinaatti is managing the project with the support of seven youth work organizations. There are only two full-time workers in the project.
“We have been able to reach many youth workers, other professionals and volunteers who work with young people. Training tour all over Finland has been successful thanks to our partners who are experts in cyber grooming and been able to share their knowledge. We still have many things to do as the project is not finished yet”, project coordinator Merja-Maaria Oinas says.
Both Pietilä and Oinas feel there are still plenty of things to do in Finland related to the subject. They share the same understanding of the need for training and educational materials for youth workers. Even though they are experts in this subject they have made important observations. Pietilä has gained an understanding of how common problem sexual grooming is and how the grooming process is usually functioning.
“I’ve learned that many people don’t realize how common sexual harassment and violence is among young people. It’s surprising for many to realize that it exists and it’s not something rare, especially in online environments. Youth workers are very motivated to educate themselves and learn more. The lack of concrete plans and acts in an organization has been a surprise for me. There’s a need for new procedures locally and nationally”, Oinas says.
Some of the needs will be met by projects’ guidebook, videos and podcasts. The guidebook contains information for youth workers on how they could plan and include sexual grooming prevention work in their working plans. Also, guidebook covers guidelines on how to encounter a young person in the prevention work and how to face and support a young person who has encountered sexual grooming or violence. In podcasts, the topics are pretty much the same as in the guidebook, but the discussion is more on a common level and not deeper in the phenomenon itself.
“After the project, we continue with the topic as a part of a new national centre of expertise for digital youth work.”, project manager Pietilä sums up about the future. The important work will continue in one form or another.
There is no doubt about the fact that raising awareness about the sexual grooming of young people is still much needed after this project has come to its end. Project coordinator Oinas mentions that the Ministry of Education and Culture is launching a project related to the issue between several ministries.