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10,000 kids in Finland left hanging as sports NGO’s funding dries up

The non-profit WAU says it provided free weekly exercise classes for 10,000 children nationwide, but has now filed for bankruptcy.

WAU ry:n liikuntakoordinaattori Tuomas Kosunen ohjaa lapsia liikunkerhossa Rovaniemen Kokenkylän koulun liikuntasalissa.
WAU's Tuomas Kosunen takes kids through their paces at Rovaniemi's Koskenkylä school. Image: Jarmo Honkanen / Yle

WAU, a confederation of sporting organisations, announced Thursday that it has closed down due to lack of funding. The NGO said that it has filed for bankruptcy and will therefore no longer be able to provide free weekly physical activity programmes to as many as 10,000 children across Finland.

WAU said in a statement that it had filed for bankruptcy and that it was closing down its programmes because several major sponsors had decided to cut off funding. Since the non-profit was unable to find new sponsors it filed for bankruptcy in early April.

The organisation, which began operations in 2009, said that it had set up sports programmes for children and teens in more than 40 municipalities.

"WAU has shut down across the country. As a result, some 10,000 children will be deprived of weekly free sporting activities," said WAU project coordinator Tuomas Kosunen.

500 affected in Rovaniemi

Kosunen said that the programme has provided weekly activities for 500 children in Rovaniemi. "We have had 32 weekly classes here. In other words, we have visited different schools throughout Rovaniemi 32 times [a week] to provide kids with exercise. Some of the clubs are in the morning, some in the afternoon and some have taken place in the middle of the day," he explained.

By his own reckoning, Kosunen said that he had worked with the WAU programme for eight months and 18 days.

Saga Saniola, a student attending Koskenkylä school in Rovaniemi, said that she was an active member of WAU’s early-morning exercise programme.

"I like that you get a lot of exercise here. The morning starts off nicely," she added. Her schoolmate Ville Laurila agreed.

"They are really good and in principle it gives you a free morning warm-up," he said.

WAU estimated that during 10 years of operation, it conducted nearly 78,000 free exercise classes and provided kids with more than one million hours of physical activity.

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