Mirza is a single mother of two children living in Helsinki. She is a volunteer at Autismiyhdistys PAUT. This article gives you an idea of what volunteering is like at the Autism Association of Greater Helsinki Area PAUT and what volunteering means to Mirza?
”My name is Mirza and I am a peer support volunteer at Autismiyhdistys PAUT. I am a co-facilitator in the international peer support group for parents of children on the autism spectrum. The group meets once a month at Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki.
I originally heard about PAUT from a friend. First, I started to show up at the monthly international peer support group in 2018. At that time, different languages were spoken there, for example English, Finnish, Greek, Arabic etc. Now, English is the main language used in the group. I strive to create a safe and supportive space for parents to share their experiences and learn from each other.
During covid, I was not active, but in 2021, I started to volunteer in the group. The volunteering that I do at PAUT, is mostly reaching out to other parents in the group and elsewhere and sharing practical knowledge, tips, and experience that I have about parenting a child on the spectrum.
My son is autistic, and he is also diagnosed with ADHD. This has been quite a journey and most of the knowledge that I have these days, I have gathered from my peers online and from peer support groups.
No database exists where you can find all the information you need. You will find them randomly after spending hours and hours searching online. And that is hard work.
Being a parent in neurodiverse family is not the same as being a parent in neurotypical family. There is more to handle with us. For me, being an immigrant as well, gives its’ additional own unique flavor.
I have been an immigrant in Finland for almost 15 years. And even after participating in Finnish courses all these years, I still for example, don’t understand all the technical words relating to autism spectrum that exists in different information resources in Finnish.
I think, there should be a website in multiple languages, that offers all the information about the spectrum and services you are intitled to when living in Finland. In my case, I had to pick up the information randomly from here and there.
I am volunteering and reaching out to other neurodiverse families, because I hope that other families could have less struggle than I did. I hope to reduce some of the stress that families navigating the system face, by creating a space in which they are both seen and heard, and not feel alone like I felt.
I also believe in paying forward all the good and all the help that I have received by sharing my experience for my peer parents. I do my volunteering very passionately and with all my heart. It makes me feel needed.
It is typical for me to always look for communities to reach out to. I think part of it comes from my family and my original culture, and part of it comes from my own experiences. Life is easier and more pleasant when you don’t have to be alone in your own bubble at home.
Volunteering gives me strength to go on in life. I recommend volunteering with PAUT to my all my peers as well.
In the future, I am hoping to be trained as an English language expert by experience in autism spectrum issues, and to be able to be more helpful to my immigrant peers as well as to support my family financially at the same time.”
International peer support group for parents of children on the autism spectrum is held monthly on Saturdays from 2pm to 5pm at Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki.
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If you are interested in volunteering for PAUT please contact Christina Alho: firstname.lastname@example.org | 040 6700 515.
You are warmly welcome to join us!