Ensuring young people feel accepted as they are

We are proud to support youth center, Asenne Ry, in reconnecting young people with their community. This is their story.

In the city of Forssa, Finland, being young and disadvantaged can easily lead to a life of social exclusion. A lack of resources and opportunities means that many young people are unable to pursue their hobbies or nurture their talents. As a result, they become disengaged, frustrated and isolated.

Local couple Paula and Harri Vigilant, are committed to solving this problem. With the help of CANPACK, they’ve transformed an abandoned gas station into Asenne Ry, a not-for-profit youth center where young people can develop key skills and participate in the activities they love.

For the individual and the community

Asenne Ry started life as an office for Paula and Harri’s social care and child welfare work.

But pretty soon it became something much bigger.

“It became apparent that many young people do not have the skills or facilities for repairing, cleaning and maintaining their mopeds or playing their instruments, as music schools are very expensive,” said Paula and Harri.

Today, the center boasts a music room, repair room, boxing gym and a living space. But it’s more than just a social hub, it’s a gateway to valuable resources. Paula and Harri have connections with emergency, social and child welfare services; as well as art therapists, boxing coaches and other mentors. Visitors can seek career advice or complete their community service through the center. Equally, they can simply grab a coffee or cook a meal.

And while the focus is on guiding and supporting individuals, the center does this by forging new connections in the community and allowing local people to share their expertise and skills. For example, Peetu, a former visitor at the center, is now a boxing trainer.

“I got to know Harri through boxing and that’s how it all started,” He explains. “Every now and then on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I lead the session if other boxing coaches in Forssa are not available. My boxing session is an hour and a half, it includes a warm up, a bit of circuit training and tempo exercises. And boxing of course, for those who want it.”

To the same end, Paula and Harri run daily meet and greets where young people are introduced to elderly members of the community. That way both parties can share their experiences and learn from one another.

“[Young people] appreciate that the elder people have seen a bit more of the world, which is especially valuable for young people who do not have parents and need parental figures and role models in their lives,” Paula and Harri explain.

Instant success and a lasting impact

Asenne Ry was a success from day one. On its opening night, the youth center reached capacity and the inaugural moped meeting was attended by 180 young people and adults.

Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength. As of today:

  • 3 days a week, Asenne Ry is open for young people
  • 105 young people, on average visit Asenne Ry
  • 5 tutors work at the center
  • 3 young people are completing their studies with Asenne Ry’s support

Here are just a few testimonials for visitors and volunteers.

“I value the atmosphere and the fact that young people are accepted as they are. And that any questions that we might have are answered together,” Evert, visitor.

“I made some new friends here and learned a lot about motorcycles and cars and about fixing them.” Aku, visitor.

“It offers young people a community where they can meet up and where everyone’s welcome regardless of their background or anything else.” Riku, volunteer.

And Paula and Harri are proud of their achievements. Having first started their charitable works two years ago, they’ve helped over 1,500 members of the community to date.

Now they’re looking to the future.

“One of our biggest dreams would be to work full-time here at the Old Gas Station. We now volunteer in addition to doing our daily jobs. We would also like to expand our operations, find people with goals aligned with ours, who would like to open similar centers in their neighborhoods. But most of all our dream is to help and make life easier for those who are facing difficult circumstances day-to-day,” the couple said.

​​Creating a feeling of belonging in the community

CANPACK is honored to sponsor Asenne Ry and we’re proud of our role in raising awareness around the youth center.

Paula and Harri had this to say, “All the activities we have here today are really thanks to CANPACK. CANPACK really started a snowball effect. When they came onboard, many others did too. And it all happened really fast. If it wasn’t for CANPACK’s support, these forty, fifty other companies wouldn’t be here with us.”

This sponsorship is just one of the many ways we’re delivering on our commitment to making a difference in society and creating a feeling of belonging in communities across the globe. You can learn more about our efforts here.