How Martha has been helping people for 100 years
Martat / Martha organization
As an immigrant moving to Finland, I find volunteering here joyful, fun, meaningful, and valuable. It is very beneficial for some foreigners who have just come to Finland to volunteer with Martat to learn the Finnish language and get familiar with the system and society.
So, I learned about Martat in our Finnish course via one of the teachers, who is a Finn and is a volunteer in Martat. According to volunteers of Martat, they are less known among foreigners and immigrants who live in Finland. Therefore, an interview with Sanna Tiainen-Erkkilä is a great way to introduce Martat to our readers.
Your role in Martha
I am a volunteer at Martha. My Martha club is Tuomarilan Martat in Espoo. Additionally, I am the chairman of the board of the Uudenmaa Martat - district association.
It was unforgettable to travel to Africa at least once in my lifetime. I participated in the Martha international trip to Ethiopia in October 2018. This visit was meant for volunteer Marthas. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has yet to arrange any Martha international trips for volunteers in Africa since then.
The role of Martha in Finland
Martat - the Marthas - is the home economics organization that combines professional counsels in Martha district associations with volunteer members in local Martha clubs. Marthas mainly deal with food and nutrition, home gardening and environmental protection, and family finances and consumer issues.
The Marthas was founded in 1899 by a group of educated women, such as Lucinda Hagman. Currently, the membership count is 38 500, the majority being women.
The first name was 'civilisation to homes', but this proposal needed to be approved in the registration process. The name 'Martta' was chosen from the Bible. There is a description of two women: Maria and Martha, who met Jesus and acted differently. Even though the history of the name is this, the Martha organisation is indipendent of any religion or politics. The Marthas are located all around Finland, so it is a national organization.
Martha offers professional counsel to educate and advise home economics in planned courses. Some of these courses are arranged for specific target groups, e.g., young people, mothers, immigrants, or prisoners, and some courses are open to everyone willing to participate. Members of local Martha clubs may participate in volunteer work. Most Marthas are women in local Martha clubs, even if everyone is welcome to join clubs and activities.
The Martha Magazine
Marthas provide lots of printed materials, including the Martat -magazine. Printed Martat -magazines include an annual membership fee. You may read some materials and the latest Martat -magazines here: Martat-lehti.
The role of Martha with immigrants and internationalization
However, the Martha association has developed projects with African Women's NGOs since the early 1980s. At present, Marthas is involved in four projects. In the projects the local organisations with knowledge of the target groups are also involved. In Somalia, Martha's is engaged in improving nutrition skills and income generation for women's self-help groups and mothers of children with disabilities. In Ethiopia and Zambia, we build life skills for women with disabilities. Furthermore, in Malawi, we help prevent sexual and gender-based violence in rural communities.
Marthas participated in volunteer work when the war in Ukraine started. For example, Marthas have arranged food supplies for refugees, knitted socks, mittens, and toys and sent them to Ukraine.
Information, advice, and courses are mainly in Finnish. However, some information and also courses are in English. The aim is that everyone can learn to understand and speak Finnish. Cooking food, making handicrafts, or learning digital home economics skills are good ways to practice Finnish simultaneously.
Martha and Immigration
Professional counsels of Martha district associations organize planned courses for immigrants in Finland. Immigrants are also welcome to join any local Martha club or group to meet each other and act as equal group members.
Marthas are not well-known among foreigners and immigrants, so this will be developed in the future.
The new activity group, "Martha Friends at Uusimaa," is one possibility to join Martha's activities and volunteer work. You can ask for more information about the group and participate in the email list: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Immigrants can meet each other, have new friends, learn the Finnish language, food culture, and habits, and more easily integrate into Finnish society. The latest activity group, "Martha Friends at Uusimaa," has been planned to make this goal easier in the Uusimaa area.
How to join
The Martha association has homepages: Martat, and social media channels, e.g., Facebook and Instagram. Marthas are also active in different campaigns and events, and it is possible to see and hear Marthas on TV, radio, in newspapers, and magazines. Marthas can be reached easily by email.
Everyone deserves a good daily life. The Marthas enable this for all of us. We all learn from each other, and this is so beautiful. We learn in Martat by doing things we like and are passionate about.