Kätlin Kõverik: Managing integration-based advisory services from the heart
Head of Cooperation joins Integration Foundation team
Integration Foundation to hold information day for language trainers in Narva in August
Media project set to consolidate integration news
There are only a handful of people in Estonia working in the field of integration, but those who come into contact with it find themselves drawn back to it time and again. So it is with Kätlin Kõverik, a senior advisor at the Integration and Migration Foundation’s advisory services centre and the woman in charge of the centre’s work – after 10 years away, she’s back working for the foundation.
And that, of course, is a very good thing: experience and knowledge of the field are values in their own right. What Kätlin was doing in the meantime, what she enjoys doing in her free time and what her thoughts are on integration issues are all discussed in the following interview.
1. Where are you from? Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born and went to school in Tallinn, from kindergarten to university. From Grade 1 to the end of high school I went to what, in Estonian terms, was a perfectly ordinary school – the former Tallinn High School no. 20 on Pärnu Highway.
After high school I went on to tertiary studies, first in the Faculty of Economics at what’s now Tallinn University of Technology, then specialising in administrative management. It was a new area of study for TUT at the time and was only just taking shape.
I spent quite a few summers during my childhood staying with relatives on Saaremaa, in the bosom of nature, as they say! Even now when I’m on holiday or have any free time I like to spend as much of it as I can in nature.
2. What did you do before you joined the Integration Foundation?
While I was at university I was part of the AIESEC youth organisation, which was behind a number of projects. I also worked as a volunteer for an organisation called ‘People to People’ – in 1997 and 1998 I helped organise a cultural game for young Russian and Estonian speakers during which I paid a number of visits to places in Ida-Viru County and came into real contact with the integration field. The idea of the game, which was all about cultural exchange, was for the players to understand – in a fun way – the feelings and fears that people have, whatever their age or cultural background, when they’re suddenly confronted with another cultural space.
I joined the Integration Foundation in 1999 and after that spent a few years working on labour market issues in the Unemployment Fund and the Labour Market Board. I spent a few years living abroad, too. I worked in Finland. I was involved in implementing and developing projects related to inclusion and health communication.
3. How and when did you find your way to the Integration Foundation?
For me this is Round 2 in the foundation, if you like! As I mentioned before, I first joined the foundation in 1999, as a project assistant, and later I was a project manager. I worked here for six years altogether. I’ve been back now since March, managing the advisory services centre and steering its development.
4. What do you get up to outside of work? What helps you relax and unwind?
The most important thing to me is being with nice people. Now that I’ve got a toddler at home there’s a different set of rules altogether when it comes to free time! My son always on the move – running around, riding his bike, even skiing – and I like all those things, too. Before he was born my hobby of choice, for years actually, was swimming – I had this thing that I had to swim at least one kilometre a minimum of a couple of times a week.
I’ve been doing handicrafts as a hobby since I was really young, as well. When I was playing with dolls I’d make clothes for them out of whatever materials I could find, and it developed from that, I suppose. I started making national folk costumes after I got my Master’s degree. At that point I’d started feeling a bit directionless in my life, so I wanted to try something new. I decided to enrol in a school where they teach you how to make national costumes. Since then I’ve made quite a few individual pieces and full outfits. I’ve given all the different techniques a try that making an outfit requires you to know – drawnwork, tablet weaving and the like. Lately I’ve been mostly focussing on tablet weaving– making belts with different patterns.
If I do get any free time I like to grab my rucksack and head out on day-long hikes, in Estonia or abroad. I love stormy seas, as well. I go and watch them churning away to remind myself how powerful nature is and that we’re just one small part of it.
5. How has the field of integration in Estonia developed in your view? Has it developed? What do you think we have to be proud of? What do we need to change and improve? What do we need to focus more on?
The way I see it, it’s important that integration isn’t hidden away between other areas but is a free-standing programme in its own right. Some very important and on-going progress has been made in all sorts of areas within the integration field, like the base financing of national culture associations and mechanisms that support Estonian language studies for both immigrants and long-term residents. We have well-functioning cooperation networks, too; I’m not sure enough importance is attached to them, really. Through them information spreads, experience is exchanged and citizens are involved and informed.
It gets to me sometimes that integration is still treated like piecework, one project at a time. It doesn’t work like that in any country, and nor should it. It’s a long-term, on-going process you have to work at constantly. Every area has to develop, and you can’t put a deadline on that – it’s a lifelong thing.
It’s unfair to say that integration has failed. Just as society comes on, so do the groups within it. Integration can be viewed like a business – like in production, where there’s product development, constant updating and adoption of improved solutions, there’s development in society and in national policies. That’s why you can’t look at integration as an activity with a fixed start and end date: it changes all the time, according to need.
6. What’s been the high point of the year so far for you, at work and at home? And when you look back on the year as it comes to an end and consider whether it was a successful one, what will decide it for you?
In terms of work one of my definite goals is to make the advisory services the foundation offers as user-friendly and high-quality as possible, and to make sure they really support people when they’re adapting to life here. We’re making big strides in that direction. At the moment people have somewhere to come to if they have questions or problems related to settling in and where they can get answers and find out how to go about things better while living here.
In my personal life the highlight of the year so far has of course been coming back to Estonia! I’ve spent time living abroad, adapting to life there, getting by there, and now I’ve come back and I have to try and fit in here again. I had no problems in Finland, but Estonia’s where I want to be.
Joining the ranks of the Integration and Migration Foundation in the last week of July was a new Head of Cooperation. Natalia Reppo, who was selected for the position, will take charge of cooperation activities in Estonia designed for people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
Natalia has a Master’s degree in Estonian as a foreign language from the University of Tartu. She has also taken part in the ‘Youth to School’ programme, undergoing training in management and teaching skills, and worked at the Juhkentali Upper Secondary School in Tallinn as a teacher of Estonian as a foreign language.
From 2008-2013 Natalia worked at the Integration Foundation as a coordinator, implementing the activities of the Estonian Integration Plan for that period. This she did by organising a variety of competitions and procurements, managing their activities and providing later monitoring. She headed up a number of projects, including language training for directors and teachers from educational institutions and a summer school.
In November 2013 Natalia joined the Estonian Youth Work Centre, where she worked until re-joining the Integration Foundation as a specialist on children and youth at risk as part of the 2009-2014 programme of the European Economic Area.
Natalia’s contact details can be found on the website of the Integration Foundation.
Prior to the commencement of the B2 and C1 Estonian language training courses for teachers from Ida-Viru County in the second half of August, the Integration Foundation is working with the Ministry of Education and Research to organise an information day for those who will be attending the courses. The aim of the event is to explain to the participants in more detail the goals and expected results of the training.
A procurement organised by the Integration Foundation came to a successful conclusion in late July when Algus OÜ was awarded the contract to provide language training for 195 teachers from Ida-Viru County. In connection with these courses, an information day will be held in rooms on the 1st floor of the Narva City Government building from 11:00-16:00 on 13 August. Piret Kärtner, the director of the Language Department of the Ministry of Education and Research, and the department’s deputy director Riina Koolmeister will outline the content, aims and hoped-for outcomes of the courses, which are due to start in the second half of the month.
“During the day we’ll be going over organisational issues related to the courses and asking the participants for proposals on how we can organise the training more effectively and so that we can achieve the results we want,” explained Jana Tondi, head of linguistic and cultural immersion with the Integration Foundation. “We’ll also be taking a look at best practice in language training for adults and training by teachers for teachers, and reviewing the most common mistakes made in exams.”
The language courses are being provided for teachers from kindergartens, general education schools and vocational schools. They will be held in 15 groups in Narva, Sillamäe, Kohtla-Järve and Jõhvi. Exams will be taken before and after the course. During the training period each participant will also have to take an exam to determine their level of proficiency. The aim is for up to 80% or 156 of the teachers who complete the course to have passed their level exam by spring 2016.
Estonian language training is financed by the Ministry of Education and Research via the state budget.
For further information please contact:
Head of Development Centre
Integration and Migration Foundation
E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: +372 659 9069
From July through to the end of December this year the NPO Etnoweb will be carrying out a media project entitled ‘Lõvi’ /Lion/ for Estonian- and Russian-speaking audiences. The service, which was commissioned by the Integration and Migration Foundation, aims to bring together and distribute news regarding national minority culture associations, social cohesion, youth work, education and cultural life via the project’s media channels – the Etnoweb, the Postimees newspaper, the television channel ETV+ and the Kultuuriinfo portal.
The main goals of the project are the development of the cooperation network for communication within the field of integration and the generation and distribution of related news to a wider audience. Etnoweb is also involving the civic press in the process of compiling the news, as well as the youngsters who took part in the ‘Our Media Generation’ training event which was held under the aegis of the Integration Foundation in spring this year. Contributing to the distribution of the news are the project’s media partners: Postimees, Kultuuriinfo and, starting in autumn, ETV+.
Project manager Valeria Mihhailova says the project aims to make information about the activities and events (cultural and otherwise) of a range of organisations and civic initiatives more available to the Estonian- and Russian-speaking populations of the country. “Often we don’t know anything about the great and really interesting events and initiatives that are happening right where we live, since information about them never reaches us, or there’s not enough of it, or it’s not in a language we understand,” she remarked. “The need to provide consistent integration-based information’s also come about because civic associations and smaller organisations frequently lack the resources or skills to inform people of their events and activities that are aimed at the general public.”
Hundreds of civic associations, organisations and educational institutions all over Estonia have the chance to contribute to the creation of this collective information field. Anyone who needs or wishes to provide or distribute news should get in touch with the project’s coordinators and editors by e-mailing [email protected]. Etnoweb is also issuing a weekly newsletter summarising the most important news published in the preceding seven days. You can subscribe to the Estonian- and Russian-language versions online at http://etnoweb.ee/JoinBroadcast.aspx. The ‘Development of the communication cooperation network of the integration field and distribution of news’ project is being supported by the Integration and Migration Foundation via the Ministry of Culture from the state budget.
For further information please contact:
Valeria Mihhailova, Project Manager, Etnoweb | E-mail: [email protected] | Mobile: +372 5559 5632
Ruslan Prohhorenko, Project Coordinator, Integration Foundation | E-mail: [email protected] | Telephone: +372 659 9035