“My name is Rhoda and I’m 35 years old. I work as a nurse in Helsinki and I’ve been in Finland for six years. Originally I come from Kenya. I have a Finnish fiancé and we will get married this November in Helsinki.
The proposal surprised me. We had just finished watching TV, we were tired, in our pyjamas and both on the living room floor talking about the day. Then he started saying how happy he was with me and all of a sudden he asked if I would marry him. He even had our rings hidden in the closet and he went to pick them, knelt before me and put the ring on my finger. I’m a very unfussy person, so I didn’t want a big dinner and people looking at me. I wasn’t at all prepared. I loved it.
Years ago when I first saw photos of Finland I got a strong feeling that I needed to come here. I used to hear all these stories about Finland, Finland, Finland, and I thought I should check it out. I didn’t know anything about Finland at the time and it sounded so unique. I heard from one of my brothers, who lives in Turku, and his friends that Finland was not so crowded, not that many people. Without them I would not have known anything.
“I’ve seen enough deaths now to understand that the most important things in life are family and love”
When I came I had a plan: first I would go to Kokkola and study to become a nurse and then I would go to the big city – to Helsinki. That’s how it worked out, but I didn’t know anyone or anything beforehand.
When I left Kokkola I started by doing gigs at different hospitals. That’s how you learn Finnish and start working. There was always someone who spoke English to me and told me what was happening. I’d say the only difficulty I faced at the time was the fact I didn’t know Finnish, but with time you get to know all the other challenges.
People see you differently because you have a different skin colour, for example. Like I’d say “Huomenta” and they’d look back at you like, “Oh, it’s her”. It’s hard to say, but you think, “next time I maybe don’t say anything”. I’m not the kind of person who complains, but there are things I’ve seen at work that I don’t really appreciate. There are many unequal things towards minorities. I see people being treated differently and people speak to certain people in a different way. I don’t speak Finnish like my colleagues do – even if I’m fluent after six years – and I have a different skin colour and that bothers some people. But I think it has made me even stronger. I’m not thinking about packing my bags. I don’t just give up.
Every day when I go to the nursing home I know there is someone who needs my help – and they always try and tell me stories. Everyone has a story to tell. I just try and listen to them as much as I can, laugh with them, and forget about everything else. You have to let them know you are there for them. If they want to hold hands or hug, then I will sit there and do that with them. The patients make me smile every day and they are the reason I wake up every day and go there. I feel their love and I have a fiancé who keeps me going.
When I first saw someone die, I was in my second year of studies. I was devastated. I realised they were dead, but I had to run and call someone. I’ve seen enough deaths now to understand that the most important things in life are family and love. It always goes back to that. I do sometimes wonder what it feels like for the people who are passing away and don’t have anyone there. What are they thinking about?”
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This interview was recorded in 2017 in Helsinki by Peter Seenan. If you’d like to be involved in this official Finland 100 project please visit our contact page and submit the form.