An OmaStadi proposal resulted in an open living room for young people in Puotila

The implementation of the proposal ‘Eastern living rooms for all young people’ has brought youth work to seven schools in East Helsinki. The project also involves piloting the Living Room for Young People (Nuorten Olohuone) activities in Puotila in the autumn. The Living Room (Olkkari) is a place open to all 5th–9th-graders for leisure activities.
Mikko Sorsa.
Mikko Sorsa submitted a proposal to OmaStadi during the previous round. The proposal led to Living Room activities for 5th–9th-grades being piloted in Puotila. Photo: City of Helsinki.

“There has never been a designated youth space in the Puotila-Vartiokylä area. Children haven’t had a place to go after school,” says Deputy Chair of the Puotila Association and Puotila village activist Mikko Sorsa, listing justifications for his OmaStadi proposal that provided children and young people with an open living room in Puotila. According to him, the need for a place such as this has been great.

“Moreover, some families don’t have the opportunity to provide their youngsters with hobbies or steer them towards safe ways of spending their free time. Young people want interaction and the ability to spend time safely,” he adds.

The Living Room activities are arranged in Puotila on the premises of the new primary school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for children and young people in grades 5–9. The activities are organised collaboratively by youth workers and various operators.

“The Living Room provides young people with a pleasant and safe space for spending time with adults present.  Young people have expressed wishes about being able to hang out, play Nintendo and board games, attend a floor ball and cookery club, do homework together and take trips,” Sorsa explains.

Puotila School is something of a pilot for the activities since the school has good premises. 

“The hope is to be able to expand the activities to other schools in Helsinki,” Mikko says. 
According to him, young people are excited about taking part in the Living Room activities. Experiences of the trials will be collected during the autumn term.

“We really hope that these long-requested activities can continue even after the OmaStadi project.”

As regards the progress of the proposal, he says that the idea on a public living room in Puotila had already been suggested during the first OmaStadi round, with his wife Johanna Sorsa at the helm of the effort. At the time, the proposal did not gain enough votes, but the idea was expanded upon in the second round by specifying the new Puotila School as the location and including a few other schools from Vartiokylä and Vuosaari. The broader area ensured more votes, and the idea progressed to the implementation phase.

“Two factors explain the idea’s success in the OmaStadi voting: Firstly, the proposal offered a solution to the shortage of meeting spaces and recreational spaces in the area. Secondly, the proposal was promoted by an extensive network of volunteers from the Puotila and Vuosaari associations and the multicultural Neighbourhood Mothers project. There is strength in cooperation,” Mikko Sorsa says.

Experiences collected of the Living Room for Young People Activities

Mikko’s original idea would have established public living rooms at Puotila Primary School, Vartiokylä Primary School and Puistopolku Primary School in Vuosaari. The Living Room activities are currently being piloted at Puotila Primary School only, but the Eastern Living Rooms project involves a total of seven schools in East Helsinki. The schools involved in the project are Vesala Comprehensive School, Vuoniitty Comprehensive School, Aurinkolahti Comprehensive School, Puistopolku Comprehensive School, Merilahti Comprehensive School, Vartiokylä Lower Secondary School and Puotila Primary School. Every school involved in the project has one or more youth workers. Youth work is introduced to them directly, and the activities depend on the needs of the school and area.

“Thanks to the encouragement of the OmaStadi instructors, similar ideas were linked to my idea. The refined the total package. Later, the proposal progressed to the implementation phase under the leadership of the Youth Work at Schools and Educational Institutions, which operates under City of Helsinki Youth Services,” Mikko says.

This makes the Eastern Living Rooms project a part of a wider project to promote youth work at schools and educational institutions. The project will continue at least until 30 June 2024. The Living Room for Young People in Puotila will be piloted until 29 November, and the experiences over the autumn season will determine the nature of the activities until June 2024. Depending on further funding, the project may even continue beyond that.