Vaalijala was founded in 1907 (oldest still working organization in field) by the Home Mission Society of the Finnish Church in the town of Sortavala, by the lake Ladoga (now part of Russia). Due to the World War II and The Winter War (1939 - 40) between Finland and Soviet Union the intellectually disabled residents of Vaalijala as well as their nurses were evacuated around Finland. Word “Vaalijala” means “place for nurses” according to founder provost Otto Aarnisalo.
The new Vaalijala was founded in Pieksämäki (300 km north andfrom Helsinki), in the middle of the Savo region. The construction period lasted form the middle of 1950's until the end of the 1960's. During that time, Vaalijala developed into a modern as well as the biggest institution for intellectually disabled people in Finland. At its height, Vaalijala consisted of 500 places.
In 1975, the administration of the central institution was transferred from the Home Mission Society to the municipalities of Savo region (now 33 municipalities). After this, a strong improvement of community care services was started. Every year, several day care centers, special schools, halls of residence and sheltered workshops were founded. Thanks to the increase in the community care services the amount of places in the big central institution was able to be reduced, in accordance with the Scandinavian model.
In time, the Vaalijala institution changed into a diversified rehabilitation center supporting the families of the intellectually disabled. Intellectually disabled children, young and adults come to Vaalijala center for a short-term rehabilitation, a few weeks at a time. Sometimes rehabilitation takes much longer time, several years. Vaalijala center provides yearly over 1300 rehabilitation periods. The rehabilitation plans and the care programs are verified in collaboration with the client, his/her family and professionals specialized in the care of the disabled The client’s physical, mental and social health and his/her medication are checked as well.
The present rehabilitation center, with its 160 + 40 (located elsewhere in Pieksämäki) places, is a diversified of know-how for special groups. Our clientele consist, among others, of autistic people, intellectually disabled with psychological, psychiatric and neuropsychiatric disorders and people with several sensory handicaps. For each client, a personal rehabilitation plan is elaborated. This plan consists, when necessary, teaching, workshops and different therapies. The special education for children and young people has expanded. We have now 75 places in the elementary school (own activity) and upper secondary education (co-operation) together. Vaalijala has also rehabilitation services in cities of Kuopio, Mikkeli and Jyväskylä; moving rehabilitation and consultative services all over Eastern Finland (4 region, total population 800.000).
In addition to the rehabilitation institution, the municipal federation of Vaalijala has several community care activity units in 12 different localities. The residential homes (approx. 250 homes) and practical work training for the intellectually disabled are important fields of activity. We are specialized in most demanding residential care activities. Activity centers as well as the practical work training centers (Savoset) organize employment for almost 1000 people with reduced working capacity. The special outpatient clinics in four localities support and advise clients with severe problems. There are about 1000 employees in the Vaalijala. Our annual budget is about 52 million euros.
The person with intellectual disability him/herself is not charged for the special services provided for him/her, only food and accommodation. The home municipality of the intellectually disabled is obliged to organize and pay the expenses of the special services needed by its inhabitants. The municipalities and towns are entitled to a financial aid from the state for social services and health care. Most adult clients have pension.