Seasonal worker Malu Kalombo
Malu Kalombo’s parents hoped their son would be a priest or a doctor. But Kalombo chose study to be a teacher and worked as a secretary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1992 he fled to Finland because of the political unrest in his native country. Here he has studied and worked. At present he is doing seasonal work in Helsinki parks and hopes he will be able to continue. It is better to be working than lounging about at home.
Malu Kalombo, 40, moved to Finland in 1992 and for the first 18 months stayed at a reception centre in Oulu. Later on he also got to know Rovaniemi and Salla. There in the north he met a Finnish woman and got married.
It was difficult for Kalombo to find work in Finland with his qualifications as they stood. He should have taken additional courses at university but his Finnish was not good enough.
“I studied Finnish and went to vocational college. I wanted to do something more practical than just university studies and to learn the language through work. I became a qualified machine fitter but could not get a job. So I became a porter at the university. Later on I was a postman.”
“You get tired and depressed if you don’t do anything useful.”
Four years ago Kalombo moved to Helsinki and worked for a year at the employment centre in Pakila.
The employment centre services furniture from City of Helsinki offices and departments and recycles office machinery. Kalombo repaired and reconditioned furniture and did metal work. Then, after a short period of being unemployed, he got seasonal work in parks for the City of Helsinki Public Works Department.
“I started on an employment subsidy scheme, but I was able to continue as a properly employed worker. There isn’t enough work to last the whole year, though. It starts in April and finishes in November. I’ve been a seasonal worker for two years now. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue, because I’ve enjoyed the work very much.”
Kalombo works for the Parks Department keeping the parks clean and tidy. He goes round the centre of Helsinki with the rest of the crew tending such attractive park areas as those in Töölö. Kalombo picks up litter, empties the litter bins, rakes up leaves and cleans the park benches. The working day starts at 7 a.m. and finishes at 3.30 p.m.
“The work’s great when the weather’s good. In summer especially I enjoy working outdoors. In my work I get exercise and I am leaning more of the language. We always speak Finnish at work, so my Finnish never gets rusty. Foreigners should learn the language; otherwise, they won’t get on here.”
Kalombo has acquired Finnish nationality. His present wife is from Congo Brazzaville. They have three children. At home they speak French or Lingala, the language of both the Congos.
Text and photograph: Anu Likonen, Jukka Vuolle and Nanni Akkola
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy