The November evening is getting darker in Niittäjäntie in Vantaa’s Varisto neighbourhood, but the residents are busy as ever. Sari Turunen, leader of the Lumo team, is working with her family to decorate the tree at the end of the parking lot with safety reflectors, and soon, the entire neighbourhood joins in. The idea of the reflector tree is not only to light up the tree but also to offer free safety reflectors to passers-by. People can also bring their own safety reflectors to the tree whenever they like.
The Lumo building in Niittäjäntie is one of the about twenty buildings that received safety reflectors from Lumo at the turn of October and November based on the residents’ interest. Turunen believes that the reflector tree is truly useful.
“This tree reminds drivers to exercise caution and potentially save lives,” says Turunen.
The parking lot is surrounded by a complex of several buildings. As the complex is home to many families with small children, there have been occasional close calls.
“Many people use the emergency access road to drive to their doorsteps, even though it is forbidden. Children may not realise that cars can come from any direction, and this is a great way to remind the residents to keep safe,” says Turunen.
Getting to know the neighbours
Turunen has lived in Niittäjäntie since 2003 and knows it like the back of her hand. She has experienced several stints in the Lumo team.
“Participating in the team is a fun activity. You get to know the neighbours and create a sense of community,” she says.
A sense of community is exactly what people are longing for now that COVID-19 has brought all the events to a minimum.
“The team has been a little passive for a few years, but last year, we were able to recruit a great group of people. We’ve organised all sorts of events and I hope to do much more when the pandemic is over,” she says.
Turunen’s neighbour Anne also became inspired to join the Lumo team when she learned of the team spirit and shared activities.
“It was an easy place to get to know the neighbours as they immediately came over to introduce themselves and welcome me,” she says.
Close to nature
The Lumo homes in Niittäjäntie are lined by a lush park and a disc golf course. The Lumo team members agree that nature is what inspires people to stay in the area.
“This place is so peaceful and there are no major roads running past your window. It’s a great area for children and the day-care centre is just around the corner. The bus connections are also quick and extensive,” says Kaisa Parm.
Children are particularly interested in the reflector tree. Kayla, 8, places safety reflectors on the branches and gets one to put on her coat.
“I like living here because the school’s so close,” she says and turns to Sari Turunen to talk about having the Lumo team organise an Easter event.
According to Turunen, the ideas for events are usually just as spontaneous.
“We have a Facebook group where we exchange ideas, and because this is a great way to meet your neighbours, we often visit each other just for fun,” she says.
However, Turunen points out that being a team member is not as time-consuming as it may sound.
“We’ve had some trouble every now and then with finding new members, but becoming a member doesn’t obligate you to do anything. You participate as much or as little as you’d like,” she says.
Valuing a sense of community
In Niittäjäntie, the most common event is a yard work party. Due to COVID-19, no such parties were organised in the spring, but in the autumn, the team ordered a skip so that residents could tidy up their gardens.
“We offered some sodas and mineral water. If there was no pandemic, we could’ve set up some warm drinks and snacks under this reflector tree,” says Turunen.
The pandemic also means no Christmas party.
“The club room has seen very little use recently, but before the pandemic, we used to sit there and make Christmas cards together. Now, we have to come up with something a little different. I’ve been thinking about a candlelit path for the children at the edge of the forest over there. In times like these, building a sense of community is vitally important,” says Turunen.