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President Niinistö launches annual charity drive

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, patron of the yearly church-run campaign, said the 2019 drive will collect funds for disadvantaged children's school material.

Sauli Niinistö
President Niinistö opened this year's drive on television on 3 February 2019. Image: Yle

This year's Common Responsibility or Yhteisvastuu charity campaign will collect money to help less fortunate school children in Finland and abroad, explained Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Sunday.

As patron of the annual event, the President emphasized the importance of education as a promoter of equality in his television address opening the fundraiser.

"Every tenth child in Finland is growing up in a family whose income falls below the poverty line. In cases like this, every euro needed for studies is one less that can be spent on something necessary. There's simply no extra money for school supplies," he said.

It is currently estimated that 110,000 children live in low-income households in Finland, a number that is expected to grow.

"Everyone should be afforded a real and true opportunity to receive an education and become a part of society. We have to ensure that this happens," the president said.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland's Deaconess Fund will be responsible for distributing the money collected to schools with needy children.

Education as the great leveller

Another reason that school materials were chosen as the theme this year were figures from last year that show that only three percent of the world's humanitarian aid was directed towards books and other necessary school equipment.

Niinistö reminded his television audience that education is the road to development, and by extension, the eradication of poverty. He also added that inclusive education is one of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals for the period 2015 to 2030.

"Free, equitable and quality basic education should be available to everyone by the year 2030. There are still over 60 million children in the world who can't even attend primary school," he said.

The charity drive is a yearly event organized by Finland's Evangelical Lutheran Church that extends helps to those in need irrespective of their origin, faith or political convictions.

The development group Finn Church Aid traditionally uses 60 percent of the proceeds in its international aid projects, while 40 percent of the funds raised are spent helping needy people in Finland.

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