Helping people and sharing her knowledge is what Eliisa Kuuru-Goodman is very passionate about.
Kuuru-Goodman, 37, is the Good Food Box co-ordinator for Anti-Hunger Coalition (ACT) Timmins.
She has a Finnish background and grew up in South Porcupine with three siblings and parents. Her paternal grandparents, who emigrated from Finland, also lived in the same house in an apartment upstairs.
She remembers her grandparents rarely spoke English and they were very active with one of the Finnish churches in South Porcupine. Kuuru-Goodman's grandmother was always baking Finnish dishes and talking about the traditions she had as a child.
"She would also do bake sales at the church, so we'd always be helping her make the pulla and all the other dishes," Kuuru-Goodman says.
When she was in high school, she went to Finland with her grandmother for six weeks where she got to see the country and meet many relatives from her father's side. To date, she quite often video chats with her aunt and uncle, who live in Finland, just to see what’s new and what's going on there.
Kuuru-Goodman says she really misses her late grandmother, speaking the language with her and learning the history.
“I wish she were still here and giving me her guidance. But my dad and my aunts, if I have any questions on the history, they’re there and I still get that culture from them. But I still miss her because she was so knowledgeable,” she says.
For her, Finland is very similar to South Porcupine in the sense that it's very close-knit and there are many birch trees.
Over the years, local Finns have died or moved away, so there isn't a big Finnish community anymore. This is something Kuuru-Goodman says she misses.
“I would like to get in touch with the Finn individuals that are still in Timmins and maybe we could form a Finnish group or something. I think that would be great. Do big sales or cook together or just let’s do something to keep it going,” she says.
Kuuru-Goodman has been working for ACT since November 2020. The organization is very supportive, flexible and she says she feels very fortunate to have this job.
In partnership with ACT, she joined the 101 Experiences initiative that was developed to bring unique tourism experiences to northeastern Ontario.
For the month of May, as part of the project’s Ride the Third Wave campaign, she held three virtual experiences where she showed how to make Finnish munkki.
The first session had six people attend. They cooked the munkki, talked about the history and how Kuuru-Goodman got where she is today. The participants were very engaged, they asked questions and the conversation was flowing, she says.
Being a part of the 101 Experiences project allowed her to get out of the comfort zone, Kuuru-Goodman says.
“I think it’s really been great. The experience has been phenomenal,” she says.
She loves meeting new people, helping as much as she can, thinking outside the box, building partnerships in the community and having her foot in the door to many different avenues.
Growing up, she loved makeup and getting her nails done. As her mother used to always see an esthetician in town, Kuuru-Goodman would go with her. After talking to her mother’s esthetician, she decided to study makeup and esthetics at Versailles Academy in Ottawa where she ended up being valedictorian.
“I loved the makeup and the esthetics and just making friends with your clients, you get to know them on a very personal level,” she says.
She worked in the makeup and esthetics industry for about a decade before deciding to try herself in something different such as working in childcare and at the women’s shelter.
Kuuru-Goodman, who can speak, read and write in Finnish, likes bringing the traditions down to her own family.
“If I'm cooking a Finnish dish, my husband is always saying, ‘I wish I had something like I had a culture or traditional food’. Just being involved in my culture has just given him that special meaning,” she says expressing hope that her son will also take the same traditions with him when he grows up.
By going to church, talking to her son about Finland and their relatives there, and by cooking traditional food together, she makes sure to instill the traditions into him, Kuuru-Goodman says.
Her son has ADHD and learning disabilities, so Kuuru-Goodman has been fighting to give him the resources and the support that he needs throughout the education system. Since the pandemic hit, on top of working full-time, she’s also been helping her son with the studies because he needs that extra support, she says.
“A nine-year-old doesn’t have much of a voice, so I need to be his biggest advocate and I need to go to the top to get what he deserves, which is what I have done,” she says. “I want him to have fun at school but I also want him not to be stressed with going to school. I want them to put the supports in place, so it’s a bit easier for him to learn.”
Kuuru-Goodman says her plate is full right now but she wouldn’t change it for the world.
"My parents did a great job raising us and teaching us the principles of everyday life, the lessons we learned, the love in the family. This who I am today because of the way they brought us up," she says.
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com