Faces of Dörren: Liselott Sundbäck & Sofia Achame

For Sofia Achame and Liselott Sundbäck the Dörren meeting was the start of a new friendship. Their similar backgrounds and common subjects of interests have made them close and they have been able to mentor each other in different ways.

Sofia and Liselott were matched together shortly after the launch of Dörren based on their shared social field of work. At the time of registering in Dörren, Sofia had two separate masters degrees – one in law focused on international human rights and one in the social science field. She has studied both in Finland and in Ethiopia but due to challenges finding a job or internship in Finland she did both of her internships in the Netherlands. When coming back she needed to broaden her local network and knowledge of local working customs, which is why she enrolled in Dörren.

Dörren gave me a person that I can ask from and who gives me emotional support. Somebody who is on my side rooting for me when I am applying for jobs, which gives me more energy. Liselott has been valuable in recommending me to contact different people and giving me ideas that I haven’t yet seen. We have gone parallelly through each other’s paths and been able to complement each other, which is quite interesting,” says Sofia.

Liselott registered in Dörren encouraged by Folkhälsan, which was her employee at that time. Folkhälsan is one of the organisations cooperating with Dörren by allowing their employees to participate in Dörren meetings during working time. Today, Liselott is doing her PhD at Åbo Akademi but she has been working with migration and integration related questions for a long time and is very familiar with the challenges to get networks and contacts when moving to Finland.

The meetings with Sofia have from the beginning been very mutually rewarding. We have many common interests. Sofia is, for example, active in Think Africa and works for inclusion and equality in the society. We also have a similar education background and quite quickly became friends,” says Liselott.

Sofia and Liselott have met several times after the first Dörren meeting in March 2020 and this continued connection has been valuable for them both. Besides meeting up and doing things together – as friends do – both of them continue to support the other one in their career. 

Landing an internship and research support – concrete benefits for both

For Sofia, the encouragement and ideas from Liselott helped her land her current internship at the Finnish Institute for health and welfare. She works as a research assistant in a work try out supported by the TE office. The research she is involved in is focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigrants. 

I did not know about the unit for equality and inclusion before Liselott told me about it. She helped me with the job application and when I did not get the job that was open she encouraged me to talk to the person in charge as they already had my CV and the text about women’s rights I sent in for the application. I was then directed further within the unit and eventually got my current internship.says Sofia and continues: As an unemployed person you send emails here and there without getting any connections so Liselott’s help in recommending me to contact different people and in doing the applications has been valuable.”

On the other hand, Sofia has, with her broad knowledge, helped Liselott formulate her research questions and she is also one of the people in Liselott’s reference group for her PhD. This research is about the encounters between authorities and young migrants with refugee backgrounds and focuses especially on the trust element. 

When we meet we often also talk about the structural challenges and everyday exclusion of migrants in Finland. I often think that we are very similar in many ways but that Sofia, because of structural challenges such as racism and the fear of hiring somebody that does not have a perfect Finnish, does not have the same starting point as I have, which is very unfair,” says Liselott. 

Liselott adds that as a Door Opener it is important not to think about the Dörren meeting as only helping the other person as the international professional has as much to give. 

I am such a career oriented person so for me it is not just about having a job. For me it is really important to be able to do something related to my field. It gives my life a meaning and purpose to be able to contribute to my current work,” says Sofia.