Paris-Helsinki-Jõhvi

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My next site after Peru is Estonia, and after some delays and flight changes, I had a long journey from Lima-Toronto-London-Paris, where I spent the weekend with the family (the Italian, the Romanian, the rabbit). It was nice to finally have a camera while in Paris, but especially to have some time with long-lost Luca and Lucian and Marlene. And Luca’s cooking, of course. Not to mention a wonderful brunch with Marguerite! It is wonderful to be away from the Equator because the days here really are so much longer (sun-wise).

From Paris I flew to Helsinki (cheaper than flying to Tallinn) and spent one day seeing the city (thanks Pekko!) before hopping on a ferry to Tallinn and then a bus to Jõhvi, where I am visiting several different places. My guide and guardian angel, Ursula, is an Estonian from Jõhvi who has helped arrange visits for me and is acting as a translator. Today we visited a home and treatment center for youth who have behavioral problems that lead to drug and alcohol addiction. I had a long talk with a psychologist there who happens to share the Estonian version of my name (Airiin) and the director of the program.

I must say, though only here for an afternoon so far, Estonia has by far the best system of care for children at risk of all the places I’ve been. The government runs and pays for the treatment and care of children who need it. Estonia has a not-particularly-unique problem in that children who are neglected or who often need the most help are in these positions because just across the sea in Finland, the jobs pay much more. Men especially are leaving their families to find work elsewhere but failing to provide support for those left behind. Given everything, though, Estonia seems to be handling itself well. I will find out more as I spend time here, thanks to Ursula. We will be visiting an orphanage for children with special needs, an orphanage with a summer camp on the coast, and another orphanage in Sillamäe, as well as various missionary programs (American-funded, though there are no Americans here at the moment).

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