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  • Writer's pictureLaaru Consulting

A conversation with Ulla Alanko - Former Honorary Consul of Ghana.

"Ghana will always be my second home in my heart."

As her office term comes to a close, Ulla Alanko, former Finnish Honorary Consul to Ghana, shares her life and work experiences with us before becoming a diplomat. She shares a special connection with the Ghanaian culture, its people, and the country that has become her second home.

The Ghanaian community in Finland has had the honor of being served by Ulla Alanko. She has been an exemplary leader, mother, sister, colleague, and friend of the Ghanaian community in Finland and beyond. Ulla, during her time, has been a dedicated, hardworking, and caring leader. She is always welcoming, adorned in her kente scarves, and ready to serve. During her office term, Ulla improved and deepened the political and economic relationship between Ghana and Finland. She played a critical role in fostering partnerships in education, healthcare, culture, and civil issues for the Ghanaian community in Finland. Her colleagues and the Ghanaian community will miss this force of nature.

Photos: Ghana Union, Finland

Who is Ulla Alanko?

Ulla was a swimming teacher in Rauma, in Western Finland. She learned the German language and chose to learn Latin during her younger school days. Ulla completed her higher education at the University of Tampere.

In her late teens, she was lucky enough to travel abroad for work experience in Sweden and Germany. During the summer of 1963, Ulla and her best friend traveled to Germany to work in a hospital. Their work duties were to look after patients' wellbeing and make sure the hospital was in good condition by cleaning or tidying up. "We also took temperatures and checked patients' pulses. We were, I guess, unofficial nurses. There was a curfew during that time, and we had to be home by 10pm at the latest." Ulla recalls.

During her studies in the University of Tampere, she traveled often to Stockholm, Sweden for work practice in the Sabbatsberg healthcare center in Stockholm. Ulla later moved to work in the Helsinki University Hospital administration for over 14 years. After her job at the Helsinki University Hospital, she worked for the City of Helsinki, in the administration field for 26 years. She then started her role as the Honorary Consul for Ghana in 2007. Ulla recalls her first visit to Ghana was in 2005, working for three months at The Trades Union Congress (TUC) of Ghana. Her commitment continued even after she retired.

Laaru Consulting sat down with Ulla Alanko to learn more about her life experiences, some of her fond memories of Ghana, and what she will miss most about her job.

Photos: Ghana Union, Finland

What are the main lessons you've learned in your life?

As part of life's journey, sometimes one has to encounter some challenges and obstacles to achieve their goal; it's inevitable. Therefore you have to be brave, curious, always follow your passion, and most importantly, never give up. "Never giving up has always been the biggest lesson for me."

Are there any career accomplishments you are proud of during your term?

I have loved my job as an Honorary Consul really; I have watched Ghana and Finland's relationship on municipal and national levels grow to such an excellent level. It has been great to be part of it all.

What are some of the proudest moments in your life?

In the early 60's I worked as a swimming teacher, and I'm humbled to have saved three lives, including my mother, a two-year-old, and a seven year old, from drowning.

Photos: Ghana Union, Finland and Ulla Alanko

Who was your biggest influencer?

My family and my relatives have been my biggest influence growing up. I have always believed in myself and motivated myself. Although my mother never attended University, she has also been my biggest influencer. She worked in the Rauma-Repola paper and pulp mill, now owned by UPM to provide for her family. Sadly she could not continue her studies, but she always supported my educational background and ambitions. She was indeed my biggest supporter.

What was it like to live in Ghana?

It was astounding from the people's kindness, the rich cultures, the weather, the delicious cuisine, and frankly, the entire country is beautiful. I hold a special connection to Ghana.

What is your favorite Ghanaian dish?

Fufu with groundnut soup and spinach sauce with plantains is my favorite dish. When I'm in Ghana, my favorite drink is hot cocoa drink, and I enjoyed drinking it every day throughout my stay.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in diplomacy?

Firstly you have to be genuinely interested in helping people, and willing to promote cooperations between countries.

Photos: Ghana Union, Finland

How have you coped with COVID-19?

I have followed the precautions and always worn my face mask. Everything has gone well, and I will continue to follow the orders. I encourage everyone to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“Although my office term has come to an end, I will continue collaborating with Ghanaians in Ghana and Finland. In my heart, my second home is Ghana” concluded Ulla Alanko

What will you miss the most about your job?

Firstly, I will miss the Ghanaian people, the Ghanaian cuisine, the music, the atmosphere, and the community's affection. Ghanaians generally are very happy and open-minded. They are special.

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