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Updated: March 2009


Overview | World Vision's history in Finland | World Vision in Finland today


The Republic of Finland is located in Northern Europe between Sweden and The Russian Federation. Norway lies to the north, the Baltic Sea to the south, and the Gulf of Bothnia to the southwest. The southern portion of the country is separated from Estonia by the Gulf of Finland. Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, is the northernmost national capital on the European continent. This heavily forested Nordic state is home to thousands of lakes, numerous rivers, and extensive marshland. The climate is both cold and temperate, as currents from lakes and surrounding seas combat potentially sub-arctic weather. The majority of the Finnish population is concentrated on a small, southwestern coastal plain. Natural resources include timber, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, gold, silver, and limestone.

Many experts believe that the Finnish people are originally from what is now west-central Siberia. The Finns arrived in their present territory thousands of years ago, pushing the indigenous Lapps into the more remote northern regions.
Finland's flag

Country statistics 
Population5.26 million
Land mass117,942 square miles
People per square mile44.6
Life expectancy78.82 years
Under age 5 mortality rate4/1,000
Literacy rate100%
Access to safe water100%
Average annual incomeUS$40,650

Finnish and Lappish—the language of Finland’s Lapp minority—are Finno-Ugric languages; neither is part of the Indo-European family of languages. Though more than 90 percent of residents are Finns, other ethnic groups include Swedes and Russians.

Finland’s near 700-year association with the Kingdom of Sweden began in 1154 when Sweden’s King Eric introduced Christianity to the Finns. Swedish became the dominant language, although Finnish recovered its predominance after the 19th century. A grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, Finland was a province and then an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809, when it was conquered by the armies of Czar Alexander I. Finland won its complete independence from Russia in 1917. Although it lost some territory to the invading Soviets during World War II, Finland was able to successfully maintain its independence.

In the years since World War II, Finland has transformed from an agricultural and forestry-based economy to a modern industrialized nation with a largely free-market economy. In 1995, Finland became a member of the European Union.

The country’s key economic sector is manufacturing—wood, metals, engineering, telecommunications, and electronics industries—and it excels in exports of high-tech items, such as mobile phones. Aside from timber and several minerals, Finland depends on imports of raw materials, energy, and some components for manufactured goods. Its per capita income is among the highest in Western Europe, yet high unemployment remains a persistent problem.

With nine years of required schooling, and a near 100 percent attendance rate in elementary school, the Finnish are well-educated. With 89.5 percent of students pursuing higher education, the average citizen receives 17.1 years of schooling.

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World Vision's history in Finland

World Vision opened an office in Finland in 1983 with the help of author and lecturer Daniel Nylund, a significant supporter of World Vision’s international activities. The goal of this office was to expand relief and development efforts around the world through the support of Finnish donors, particularly in the form of child sponsorship. During the first year of operations, a few hundred Finnish sponsors supported children in several countries, including India, Kenya, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Finnish involvement expanded in the early 1980s, when World Vision initiated a student sponsorship program that focused primarily on children living in Latin America. This program provided vocational training for students living in impoverished communities; through volunteer work, these students gained skills directly related to their particular fields of study. With the support of Finnish donors, the student sponsorship program has helped hundreds of students in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Nicaragua become doctors, teachers, agronomists, nurses, lawyers, and economists.

In 1987, World Vision’s Finland office organized a development project working with the Soura tribe in India. By the time the project reached completion in 1999, more than 300 Soura children had received assistance from World Vision.

In 2005, Finland launched the Gift a Cow program, which provides Finnish donors with the opportunity to give a tangible, sustainable gift to a community in a developing country.

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World Vision in Finland today

Today, the Finnish support projects in Kenya, India, Colombia, Peru, Uganda, and Sri Lanka. The efforts of the Finnish have expanded beyond child sponsorship to include support of programs that address HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention, improved access to education, combating the prevalence of female genital mutilation, and crisis and disaster response.

Currently, there are nearly 13,000 Finnish sponsors supporting some 18,000 children and funding 35 development programs in eight countries.

World Vision’s Finland office cooperates with Finnish and international networks and is a partner organization of the Finnish Foreign Ministry. It also helped to found VaLary, an organization ensuring responsible operations and is a member of Kehysry, a Finnish development cooperation. Together with these partnerships, World Vision’s Finland office is working to reduce the causes of poverty and increase awareness of global poverty.

For more information on World Vision’s work in Finland, please contact the United States office.

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