We interviewed both foundations about their mission and the role donations play in their operations. Leena Poutanen, the Director of Communications and Fundraising at the Mannerheim League tells us how they are present in the daily lives of children, youth and adults of all ages. Laura Paasio, the Executive Director of AAMU, explains the importance of donations for clinical cancer research for children in Finland.
The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare: the goal is a child-friendly Finland
The Mannerheim League (MLL) is an NGO that promotes the wellbeing of children, young people, and families. MLL offers its services nationwide to prevent problems in everyday life.
“Many families get to know our foundation through the peer support programs in schools, or by finding our family cafés where they get peer support for raising small children”, says Leena Poutanen, Director of Communications and Fundraising for MLL.
Christmas season highlights the loneliness of children and young people
Family time over the holidays is not a happy and joyful occasion for everyone. Families whose day-to-day life is already difficult, can face challenges during the holidays as routines and hobbies are put on hold for several weeks.
“Loneliness and anxiety among children and youths is unfortunately prevalent during the holidays, especially in families that lack support networks and safe adults. Our helplines and chats are open every day on Christmas and we also receive a lot of calls”, Poutanen says.
A healthy and secure childhood creates the foundation for wellbeing in adulthood
MLL helps people in all kinds of situations. Peer support and preventive action can have a major role in solving everyday problems. If issues are left unresolved, intervening typically becomes more and more challenging over time.
“The MLL Youth Network, Nuortennetti, is one of Finland’s most active platforms for young people. It’s a safe space that lets youths chat with each other as well as with a professional. Our website has over 200,000 visits annually. Young people visiting the site want to talk about questions that matter to them, such as sexuality, bullying, and relationships with parents and other adults in their life”, Poutanen says.
MLL’s work extends to all people from new parents to children, youths, young adults and senior citizens. For those considering parenthood, MLL helps with questions about what it means having children in this day and age. Seniors can also volunteer for MLL, for example, by acting as a ”borrowed” grandparent for a family.
One in five euros comes through donations
Valuing childhood starts by investing in social and health services for children and young people. According to Poutanen, impacts on children should always be assessed when making decisions about government aid.
“It is estimated that poverty among families with children will increase over the coming parliamentary terms. The current government’s programme includes cuts in the aid directed at NGOs; this means the role of private donations will become more important. Many forms of daily support are based on the activities maintained by foundations. Wellbeing services counties will not be able to reach the goals set for preventive work without the help of NGOs”, Poutanen says.
“Donations from private citizens and companies are hugely significant when it comes to planning our long-term activities. Currently, one in five euros we need comes through donations. Every penny matters: that’s why we are highly grateful for the Christmas donation made by MuniFin. This support will be directed to work that strengthens youth participation, supports the mental health of children and young people, and work that supports the parents.”
AAMU Children’s Cancer Foundation: life is worth researching
The AAMU Children’s Cancer Foundation funds clinical cancer research for children in Finnish University Hospitals. The foundation was established a decade ago to fill a gap in public funding.
“AAMU is the only foundation in Finland funding clinical cancer research for children. Public funding for this type of clinical research has never come from the state treasury”, explains Laura Paasio, the foundation’s Executive Director.
Clinical research is the prerequisite to developing treatment methods
University Hospitals treat children with cancer and develop new, improved treatment methods. Basic research receives grants from various sources, but it alone is not enough to develop treatments. Clinical studies are a vital link between treatments and basic research. Funding for clinical research was in danger ten years ago, even though it is necessary in developing more efficient, individual treatments.
“Projects for clinical research treatment take years. Current legislation prevents units from sharing information with each other, if one of them is not an official member of the research project. AAMU funds research costs and also sees to it that the funding supports all research projects that are opened”, Paasio explains.
The most modern cancer treatments – the goal is a healthy adulthood
The majority of AAMU Foundation’s funding is directed to children’s clinical cancer research. In the 1980s, the prognosis for recovery from a childhood cancer was only 20%. In recent decades, this figure has jumped up to 80%. The goal of the AAMU Foundation is a world where each child’s cancer could be cured.
“It is also important to note that cancer can be a different disease when it hits a child and when it hits an adult. That’s why it is extremely important to do separate research dedicated for children: more than 200 varieties of cancer among children have treatments and medication that are different compared to adult cancers and their methods of treatment”, Paasio says.
The foundation also wants to enable a healthy adulthood for every child diagnosed with cancer. Over 60 percent of child patients experience later effects at some stage of life, either due to the cancer itself or the treatments that can take a harsh toll on the body.
What’s the significance of donations to AAMU’s operations?
“Every donation is vital to us, as without them we would not exist. It warms our hearts that MuniFin wanted to offer us a donation: it goes to ensuring clinical research for next year”, Paasio says.
Private individuals and companies can donate to the foundation’s efforts in all modern methods, through one-time donations or recurring monthly donations.
“Currently we fund dozens of clinical research projects into children’s cancer in Finnish University Hospitals. This means that almost each and every type of childhood cancer is being researched. Thanks to donations made to AAMU, Finland is one of the leading countries in the ALLtogether research project for acute lymphatic leukemia”, Paasio says.
The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare
AAMU Suomen Lasten Syöpäsäätiö (in Finnish)