Apu-Paku ry

Hyväntekeväisyyttä ilman välikäsiä

Ideasta ensimmäiseen reissuun / The Idea and the first trip 2010


Idea Apu-Pakusta syntyi vuonna 2007 ja virallinen yhdistys perustettiin kaksi vuotta myöhemmin. Vuonna 2010 kourallinen ystäviä päätti hankkia pakettiauton ja pakata sen täyteen lahjoitustavaraa. He ajoivat auto täynnä tavaraa ja hyväntekijöitä Euroopan läpi Gambiaan, jossa lahjoittivat auton sisältöineen paikallisyhteisön käyttöön. Samalla alkoi esikoulun, farmin ja asumusten rakentaminen. Tästä juontaa yhdistyksen nimi: Apu-Paku ry.

Apu-Pakun isä, Antti Väisänen, oli käynyt ennen ensimmäistä pakua useita kertoja Gambiassa sekä Senegalissa ja näki paikallisväestön avuntarpeen omin silmin. Antin paikalliset ystävät kertoivat heidän kylänsä tarvitsevan kipeästi apua esikoulun perustamiseksi. Väisänen päätti tuolloin auttaa ja hän selvitti yhdessä kyläneuvoston kanssa, mitä kyseinen hanke vaatisi. Sopiva paikka esikoululle löytyi Pakau Penku kylän laitamilta ja projektin kehittämiseen tarttui välittömästi useita paikallisia ja länsimaalaisia vapaaehtoisia. Tämän jälkeen Pakau Penkuun on ajanut useita karavaaneja – edellisen kerran tammikuussa 2014. Syksystä 2015 lähtien koulullemme on mennyt useita työharjottelijoita ja muita vapaaehtoistyöntekijöitä.

Linkkinä Antti Väisäsen haastattelu ennen ensimmäistä reissua!

The idea of Apu-Paku ry dates back to 2007 and the organization was officially set up two years later. In 2010 a small group of friends decided to get a van and fill it up with goods received as donations. With a van full of donations and volunteers they drove through Europe all the way to the Gambia. Once they reached their destination they handed out the contents of the car for the local community to use. The van itself was also given to away. During that trip the building of a pre-school, a farm and dwellings began. This is also why the organization was named Apu-Paku ry (a help van).

The Gambia 2010

We are Juho, Kala, Riikka and Ulla from Finland and our steps got together on February 2010. The thing that brought us together was to drive an old red van – Volkswagen Caravelle -85 – full of donated clothes, instruments, solar panel, sewing machines, hand tools, papers and pencils etc. to Gambia, West Africa. To collect the support we needed for the trip, Juho, Kala and two other gyus in Finland, Jukka and Jussi, put up a registered association – Apu-Paku – which gave its name for the whole action and the van.

Let the first journey begin…

The first van used to belong to Nousiainen´s Fire Station in South-West Finland. Because of the earlier experiences, knowledge and friends in Gambia the van choose its way through Europe to Gambia, West Africa and more specific the villages around Banjul.

The group of these four persons gathered together in Oulu, Finland, in 31st of March 2010; Ulla coming from Hämeenlinna, Juho, Kala and Riikka starting their journey from Oulu. We selected all the most important and significant goods along us and packed the van so that even one more pairs of shoes couldn´t fit in.

To make the declaring of all the goods from Europe to African side easier, we decided to do all the possible preparations in Finland. On the 1st of April, the Apu-Paku van began its trip from Oulu and headed to Haparanda customs in the boarder of Finland and Sweden. The custom personnel was really confused about our plans; they ´ve been working in customs for over 50 years all together and still they´d never seen anything this crazy. It took some time to figure out the values for donated things and these great custom guys had to work overtime just before Easter holidays, but together we succeeded!

The days before leaving were so full of hassle and different kind of organization that we decided to take a big breath in Haparanda where Juho´s mother lives. We got to know better each other and those couple of days in Haparanda really made us feel like brothers and sisters, one family. From that moment on we decided to call ourselves the Apu-Paku family. Finally, on 3rd of April 2010 the well rested family started the adventure from Haparanda heading to Gambia.

06.04.2010 Haparanda, Sweden – Copenhagen, Denmark As we travelled from Haparanda the earth was still covered with snow but the sun was shining and a lot of positive energy was flowing in the Apu-Paku –van. Finally we felt like the real journey had begun! We felt enormous joy to have the honor to be the lucky ones who would take everything all the way to Gambia . As we were planning the way through Sweden we decided to make a profile of Apu-Paku family in Couch surfing sites. That was the way to travel with a low budget, meet people and spread peace, love and good vibes around. Our first stop was supposed to be in Uppsala, with the couch surfer Gabriela. At some point, though, we understood that we were going to be there in the middle of the night. We had an urgent discussion at some place called Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. We could either stay the night in Sundsvall or just keep on driving through the night. We already got a contact in Sundsvall through Internet Relay Chat from the Sundsvall-channel but the situations led us driving ahead all the way to Helsingborg, Sweden. We noticed that our loyal van was working excellent also to sleep in it!

The first plan was to go by the bridge to Denmark, but as we got to Helsingborg we noticed that there was only a ferry going across the Sea. We just didn´t feel right to go to Denmark by the ferry, so we decided to drive to Malmö and drive through the bridge straight to Copenhagen, Denmark. From Copenhagen we got a place to stay at Tune´s. An expert with the couch surfing, the helpful pianist- musician became a part of our journey. Funny coincident was that he just got his 24th birthday as we arrived!

As we arrived to Copenhagen it was already a late evening and we felt exhausted after 28 hour driving through Sweden. We just had some pea soup and went straight to bed. The next morning we were ready to explore some Copenhagen and Christiania was the place to visit. On our way we met Simon, another pianist-musician, who joined us to go to the Christiania. The day passed by fast and we met many interesting souls, ate some real good vegan soup and listened some good music. At some point also Tune joined us in Christiania and in the evening we still went on a visit to Simon´s place. We must have walked over 20 kilometers along the day!

08.04.2010 The third day in Copenhagen, 6th of April, started with a good rest and breakfast. Some yoga, few dance and flexing moves and our bodies started to be ready to sit in a van for some more hours to get to the next destination. Before leaving Copenhagen we did some dumpster diving at Tune´s backyard and got some more extra tools, one more pair of sneakers and some children´s toys to take with us. It feels such a waste when people are collecting material, don´t even have time to use it and then throw them in a rubbish! Well, it took some while to figure out, how to fit all the new things in the van, but in the late afternoon our van was shinier than ever with a lovely pink Barbie rag on the floor and some percales growing on our front window. Thank you Tune! We were ready to continue as Berlin and German was calling! All the new friends in Copenhagen: thanks for all the great conversations and welcome to Finland onto our couches whenever you feel like visiting us!

Copenhagen, Denmark – Berlin, Germany As we were planning the route to Berlin, it was our first time when we had some differences with our opinions. To leave Denmark by using a ferry seemed like a good idea, but we were afraid we had missed the ferries for that day. So, we decided to change our plans and use a bridge and then drive through Odense to Germany. It was already a nighttime as we finally drove over the German border and again we ended up driving the whole night. As the morning came, we were in Berlin, sun was shining and all the sleepy passengers woke up just to hear a great Finnish song from Juice Leskinen: Rakkauden ammattilainen. A perfect way to wake up:)

Again we had been sending messages for a few couch surfers and we got one funny answer: Martin, the actual couch surfer wasn´t home as we were in Berlin, but he promised to arrange a place to sleep for us! It was already morning when we arrived to Berlin and after a few blocks walk on Berlin´s streets and a filling German breakfast we got into Heiko´s place, who was a friend of Martin´s. Boys were tired of driving the whole night and took some long naps and meanwhile the girls were having a refreshing walk along the river park at a sunny Wedding, Berlin.

In the evening we got to enjoy some real connection with the Germans as we were watching the Manchester United – Bayer München game in a café bar called Cuba! It didn´t really bother anyone that we were a group of Finnish hippies in a bar full of white-collar men as we all were supporting the Bayer München team together! The result was that “our team” got to continue its games in the Champions League, so the bar was full of good spirit German bars definitely are just for the social spirit and their beer is just for to really enjoy it as a cup of coffee in a restaurant. As girls went already to sleep, boys went to hang around with their new German friends in Kamine und Wein, which was a bar of our host Heiko and his very nice friend Maurizio. The night went out so well, that Pummiharmonia has made a deal about a gig in Kamine und Wein!

The next morning came and our team was working excellent. Weather was again sunny and really warm. We spend some time hanging out, enjoying ourselves and the weather, resting – knowing that soon we are going to leave again. Before leaving, we went to see Kreuzberg and some really cool parts in Berlin, found a bookshop so full of information we had never seen before and had a lovely walk. First time it felt really like summer! After this beautiful day, we decided to continue our way towards Rotterdam, the Netherlands. But leaving Berlin was more difficult than we thought – we were almost out of gasoline and couldn´t find a gasoline station. It was already over midnight and we drove and drove and finally came to a dead-end, where was a boy sitting on his suitcase. Thinking a while of Apu-Paku´s main idea to help people, we decided to take him to the other side of Berlin, because that was where he was going. So he got into our almost full car (there is always a space for a person in need of help ) and right after we started to drive after meeting him, we found a gasoline station! Then having a full tank of gasoline, we started to look for the place where our new friend was going; it took us more than an hour, but we finally found the place and got some really good advice from our new friend After this trip we felt somehow that it is time to change our plans. Just before leaving Berlin, we had found on the street a tree of life, which had been attacked by 99 hearts of love and poesy; and we felt that could be a link towards our next destination – France – where the ceramic artist, who made this piece of art, was from. So instead of heading to Rotterdam, we decided to go for France!

Berlin, Germany – Stuttgart, Germany – Epernay, France On our way to France, we decided to stop still in Germany to a village called Burgebrach, because there was Thomann, a shop that sells all kinds of music equipment. So we drove through many small villages and saw some really beautiful landscapes! We also had a meeting with the German police force; we were stopped by one police car and they phoned for a civil-patrol to come as well to see the strange Finnish persons…they tried to find every possible reason why to give us fines, but there was nothing illegal! So finally one of the police asked us, that don´t we love our life, cause we have so much stuff in our car (looking not safe) and the answer was, that we couldn´t love our life more <3 Finally we got to the Thomann-city and realized that the shop had just closed 15 minutes before we arrived! So it was time for the first outdoor-meal, we cooked beside a small lake some really good food (Thanks Ville) in a beautiful sunset and then continued our trip towards France!

After a long night drive, our drivers started to feel too sleepy and our decision was to sleep for the first time in a hostel or a guesthouse. We stopped in Stuttgart – or we thought so – but after a while looking for any hotels, we realized that our “Stuttgart” is totally dead. Only persons awake were two girls sitting next to a fire and we went to ask them for some help and they told us, that Stuttgart is still 15 kilometers away! So finally in Stuttgart, finding a hostel was the thing to do. We saw three persons walking on a road and stopped the car to ask for some good advice and they told us, that we could come to their place to sleep! We went to their place and on the way we found out that these friendly souls were from Greece, Andreas, Christos and Nefeli, who were living with two other guys, Hasan and Paolo, in a student flat. We had a really good “afterparty” at their place and got a lovely place where to lie down after two days in the van:) On the next morning we thought that it is time to continue, but after a long discussion and our new friends asking us to stay, we decided to stay for another night. We went to see a little bit of Stuttgart and in the evening we went out with them to really really cool place called Wagones, which was a place where people have some parties in abandoned trainwagons. We enjoyed ourselves SO much and had such a good time with our new lovely friends (the dudes from the apartment + Ruben, Amin and two girls), so it was a pity that this fun night had to end. Next morning we woke up early, said quickly seeyous; promised with our new friends, that we will definitely meet us later again. Our stop in Stuttgart has happened by accident, but the result was some friendships that will last forever and some dreams to dream for the future, new members for the Apu-Paku Family:)

Again leaving a German city was more difficult than we thought; our car had an oil-leak and we had to go to the first gasoline station we could find. But then real problems got along; Germany is a country, who sleeps on Sundays. We were for a little while really confused, because we couldn´t find any help and didn´t have the spare parts needed, but then a helping angel came along; Andi Stephan! He went to get the spare parts we needed, biggest thank you for that Andi, card will come to you later from Africa! Boys were the best mechanics ever, car got washed and some new oil. After this car-taking-care moment we were finally ready to go for France and for the farmside, Epernay, Pierry! It was already a little bit over midnight when we got to the organic farm of Matthieu Ballu and he was waiting for us with some delicious vegetable food Matthieu, his wife Lady from Peru and their lovely daughter Maywa are a part of the WWOOFing organization; you have a place to sleep and you can eat for free by working in the farm. What a great way to discover new things about farming and at the same time get to know new people from all over the world! We had some good sleep and on Monday morning we got up and after playing with Maywa and hanging around, we went to do some work with Matthieu at his “garden”. We made rows and holes for potatoes and after this day we were tired, but really happy; there was a new row of Peruvian potato growing and we had a lot of new knowledge of organic farming, Pachamama, the life itself and some great new ideas of our own becoming farm back in Finland + ideas about an organic farm network changing knowledge from other parts of the Globe (maybe Finland, France and Gambia to start with ) After the workday we still had a really good chat with our hosts about important issues and learned again some new things: about Peru, about the problems with normal farming, what it does to poor countries for example African countries, about pestisides etc. The Apu-Paku Family gives a big big respect to Ballu family and warmly recommends WWOOFing to everyone and especially Ballu Family, cause there you can see who to grow vegetables with love <3 We are definitely going back to their farm, maybe for harvesting, who knows, but the next thing we do there is to build a sauna for Matthieu, cause there is nothing better than sauna after a workday in the field:)

Epernay, France – Camariñas, Spain (Galicia) Now it´s Tuesday and we are heading to Spain, Camariñas to meet, for the first time on this trip, some “old” friends Jouni and Tuuli. Kesemmällä lisää.




20 MAY 2010

Apu Paku has a new sister <3

Apu-Paku is now officially international, because today it was a big day for the Apu-Paku Family! Today we finally got a sister association here in the Gambia, Apu Paku charitable Association 😀 Some have been telling us that it takes two years to build a charity organization in Gambia; it took us a little bit more than two weeks. Again new reason to believe in miracles sisters and brothers <3

Ja suomeksi vaha samaa elikka Apu-Paku perheella on ollut suuri paiva tanaan. Perhe on virallisesti kansainvalistynyt ja saanut ihan oikean sisaryhdistyksen Gambiaan! Jotkut kertovat, etta hyvantekevaisyysjarjeston perustaminen Gambiaan kestaa ainakin 2 vuotta; meilla siihen meni vahan yli 2 viikkoa. Taas hyva syy uskoa ihmeisiin siskot ja veljet <3

14 MAY 2010We welcome all the help that comes to us/ Apua otetaan vastaan

Finally we are getting to work alltough the Gambian byrocracy is trying to stop us…We are heading to the farmside to start THE project and now if you guys want to help, it would be a great opportunity. If someone has experience of making dwells or schools, you are more than welcome to Pakau Penku village to help us, just let us know and we’ll pick you up from the airport or from the border:)


7 MAY 2010Finally in the Gambia eli perilla ollaan!

Finally the Apu-Paku Family is in the Gambia after almost 15 000 kilometers and a little bit over than one month of traveling. First thing was to relax a while when we arrive, but we have already started working hard by trying to build a new Apu-Paku Association here in the Gambia! It is a lot of paperwork and after we are done with that, there will be some new stories and updates about what happened to us on the journey in Mama Africa. Until then; peace, love and good vibes from the Family <3

Suomeksi sammaa eli vihdoin ollaan perilla Gambiassa. Matkaa kertyi melkein 15 000 kilometria (3000 kilsan ylimaaraisesta lenkista lisaa myohemmin) ja matkaan meni aavistuksen yli kuukausi. Perille paastya ensimmainen suunnitelma oli levata hetki, mutta toisin kavi: Apu-Paku perhe tekee jo tosissaan toita saadakseen perustettua uuden Apu-Paku yhdistyksen tanne Gambiaan! Kun paperisota sen suhteen on ohi, lupaamme vihdoin kirjoittaa matkasta Afrikan puolella. Siihen saakka; rauhaa, rakkautta ja hyvia viboja koko perheelta, variin ja sukupuoleen katsomatta <3

20 APRIL 2010Eurooppa jaa taakse!

Eurooppa jää tänään 20.4 taakse, kun Apu-Paku tullataan Marokon paattiin… Takana on päräyttäviä hetkiä Portugalin, Espanjan, Ranskan, Saksan, Tanskan ja Ruotsin mailta. Edessä vielä siis Marokko, Länsi-Sahara, Mauritania ja Senegal, ennen kuin saavutamme määränpäämme Gambian Banjulin. Paku on kulkenut ja kukkunut kaikesta 2,5 tonnin painosta huolimatta; öljyä ja jäähdytinnestettä on lisätty sekä pätkä bensaletkua vaihdettu, mutta muuten paku on käyttäytynyt moitteettomasti. Kilometrejä on nyt takana noin 7500, joten paikkojakin on nähty vaikka kuinka. Ranskan, Espanjan ja Portugalin tietulleja yritettiin vältellä melkein jopa hermostumiseen asti, mutta kaikki on ollut sen arvoista. Edessä vielä pitkä ja kuuma testi niin autolle kuin meille itsellemmekkin. Afrikkaa kohti siis matkamme käy ja seuraavia tilannepäivityksiä kannattaa odotella vasta, kun saavumme Gambiaan ja asetumme taloksi. Milloin se sitten on, kukaan ei varmasti sitä tiedä. Jos arvioida pitää, matkassa kestää vielä viikko… Palataampa kesempänä ku saavutaan määränpäähän. T: PakuPerhe



2 Kommentit

  1. Hi guys! Great to see the enthusiasm of wanting to do something good, but wouldn’t it be much more practical and cheaper to buy all the stuff (the sewing machines, clothes, pens and papers etc.) in Gambia directly? This would also support the local economy and would save you from all the hassle you experienced with the customs and getting the stuff stolen on the route. I’m not sure I understand the purpose of driving the van there? Lots of charities working in African countries have moved away from shipping donated stuff from western countries and instead are supporting local organisations in purchasing stuff that they really need and can buy locally. There are always local organisations that you could partner with to ensure the best results for people’s donated money. (maybe you already are.) Good luck! 🙂

  2. Apu-Paku ry

    12.12.2018 at 11:10

    Hey! Thank You for Your message! You have a good point there, and we agree totally. We actually do buy stuff from Gambia, but we also send some stuff from Finland. In Finland, there are lots and lots of good stuff in peoples’ attics and storerooms. We want to put this stuff into proper use. We send the stuff in suitcases with people who are going from Finland to Gambia so its not very expensive either.

    Thank You for the comment! We hope this answers Your questions.


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