Become part of ELO: Let’s together create good life for all families with special needs children in Finnish Lapland
ELO, Erityislasten Omaiset ry, is a registered association, which was founded in 2000. It is a network that provides peer support and recreational activities for families with special needs children and adolescents. The network welcomes all families with children and adolescents needing any form of special support. We operate independently of diagnoses or special needs may be physical, psychological, neurological, linguistic, or social (diagnosed or undiagnosed). The network welcomes parents with special needs children/adolescents, their relatives, those working with individuals of special needs – indeed everyone whose heart beats to special needs. We are easy to join, and we offer low threshold activities, in which you can participate depending on your resources. Our annual membership fee is 20€ per family.
ELO operates in eleven municipalities in Lapland (Rovaniemi, Sodankylä, Inari, Enontekiö, Muonio, Kittilä, Kolari, Kemijärvi, Pello, Tornio and Salla). The core of ELO activities is to support and strengthen the daily life of families with special needs children and adolescents in Lapland by offering peer support. All our activities build on the principles of support and mutual respect. Our goal is that ELO families would have the means to go about their daily life, and we offer concrete support in the form of guidance and communication through our active peer support network. All the ELO events are open for residents in the nine municipalities.
Our ELO group activities create possibilities for peer support encounters for children and adolescents, their parents, and entire families. The ELO group activities comprise of discussions and exchanges of ideas and experiences, and our members can enjoy the activities, meet new people and be empowered through peer support. All the group activities are tailor-made to meet the needs of our members. They are also free of charge and open for everybody. In addition, ELO acts as a contact point for information regarding events relevant for our families and for all those who work with these families. We collaborate with schools, local associations and other operators, and we organize workshops, trainings, symposia, and theme days. These activities enable us to act as a liaison between families and local policymakers in Lapland.
All the ELO municipalities have local ELO godparents. They can be local civil servants, be employed by local associations, by the parish, or by local partners. These ELO godparents act as a point of contact between the municipality and the local service infrastructure on the one hand, and the ELO families and our employees on the other. All the ELO godparents are communicators, and they offer their professional competences for our peer support activities by helping us to reach families who need help. They also help families to find our peer support activities and provide information of local support channels. A few municipalities also have local ELO teams, which are formed of professionals and civil servants. These teams also support the ELO godparents.
Within the service infrastructure, ELO functions as an expert local partner that supports service counselling. As part of our expert partner function, we have piloted peer support family activities, in which we have eight families from around Lapland acting as peer support. These families add to and complement the social and welfare services provided by the local authorities. Their prior experiences and competences can be made use of by other families and professionals. These peer support families are not professionals, but they possess extensive first-hand experience of the daily life of families with special needs children and adolescents. These activities are voluntary and are based on sharing prior personal experiences, and offering peer support and care. Our ELO peer support family activities can be found in the Virtu e-portal, which is maintained by the social and welfare service centre of expertise of the Northern Finland. It means that the ELO peer support family activities can be found easily both by families with special needs children and adolescents and by local professionals working with the families.
Our ELO peer support network includes 500 families and 800 collaborators around Lapland. The ELO activities are funded by grants, donations, and membership fees. In addition, we are funded by the Funding Centre for Social Welfare and Health Organisations (STEA), which operates under the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. STEA manages the funding granted from the gaming revenue of Veikkaus Oy, the state-owned gaming company that funds common good in Finland. STEA funds organizational operations within the social and health services and non-profit projects that promote health and wellbeing in Finland.