“For many, the shop is the only place where people say 'hello',” he says. Young people on the outskirts of society have attracted media attention, but Kirwa says he’s also concerned about pensioners.
“What do you do once you’ve fixed up your house and garden -- play lotto, drink beer?”
As for young adults, he wants them to travel abroad to break out of their shell.
According to Kirwa, a lack of communal spirit is to blame. He says he attempts to foster a sense of belonging through story hours he hosts around Finland. The former athlete has authored a children’s book (“Amani the Donkey and Inner Beauty”), modified from stories he learned growing up in East Africa.
“Reading stories unites generations: kids, parents, grandparents,” said Kirwa at a storytime this week in Kälviä, near Kokkola on Finland’s west coast.
Kirwa, a National Coalition Party member, was elected to the Lahti city council in 2008.