Activities in the early years

The first duties that the newly founded Finnish Association for the Deaf assumed in 1906 included the publishing of Finnish- and Swedish-language magazines for the deaf. Kuuromykkäin Lehti (Magazine of the Deaf-Mute) was first published as early as 1896. Initially, the teachers at the school for the deaf in Mikkeli were responsible for editing the magazine, which was intended to offer educational and useful content to deaf people. Right from the outset, the magazine connected deaf people who lived in different parts of the country. Readers sent the magazine information on themselves, their lives and other deaf people they knew. In addition, the magazine published articles on matters such as deaf education and association activities and informative and spiritual texts. A section at the end of the magazine included brief notices on various events and people. In addition, the magazine printed letters to the editor.

In the early stages of the association’s operations, collecting funds for the activities presented a significant challenge. When the association finally received donations, it could hire its first employees. John Sundberg acted as the association’s first official, working with travelling officials hired for a fixed period. The first of these were Eelis Vilkki and Hulda Hakala. The travelling officials were tasked with offering advice and assistance on the establishment of regional associations, and they also served as unofficial channels of information. Hulda Hakala also attached proposals for improving the situation of deaf people and developing the association’s work methods to her travel reports.

Once these officials began visiting different parts of the country, informing people about associations and their activities, new associations were founded at an increasing rate. By 1911, the national organisation had 16 branches. In the 1930s, the number of deaf associations continued to increase and in 1938 the Finnish Association for the Deaf consisted of 29 associations. Altogether, the associations had more than a thousand members. Because the Finnish Association for the Deaf had limited resources, ministers for the deaf also acted as their representatives.

In the 1930s, the national association made an effort to arrange training, thereby improving the opportunities for further training for deaf people. The associations arranged study clubs/circles covering mostly practical topics, such as household management, taxes or accounting. Other activities, such as scouts, were also arranged.