Dila in English

About us

Working for better lives

The Lahti Diaconia Institute is a non-profit foundation based on Christian values, which directs its activities and funds primarily for the wellbeing of people living in the Lahti region.

We work for the betterment of lives, and it is of primary importance for us that people are encountered as valued and equal human beings. We want to work with integrity and defend those people who are in danger of being isolated from the rest of society. We believe that good and high-quality services are born by working together. In line with our values, the foundations funds and assets are used to improve the services and the weakest in our society. By doing this we carry a remarkable social responsibility for the wellbeing of people of Lahti and its surroundings. We are a member of ARVO, the Finnish Association for Social enterprises.

The Lahti Diaconia Institute operates in the Dilakortteli, a city block in the center of Lahti. The Dila block is a community and inclusion area that unites Lahti residents of different ages and life situations. The Dila block, which is frequented by more than 350 volunteers, offers a home for the elderly, youth employment services and events for all Lahti residents. All Lahti residents are welcome to Dilakortteli!



Our 150-year-old history of helping people

The history of the Lahti Diaconia Institute (DILA) dates back to the end of the 19th century. The institute, first called The Vyborg Deaconess Institute, was originally founded in the city of Vyborg, in East-Karelia. It was born in the period following the Finnish famine of 1866–1868, out of a desire to help inspired by the suffering and high death rate caused by the famine. The early vision was that of caring for the sick, raising vulnerable children and training nurses.

Picture: Lahti Diaconia Institute’s archive/colored by Veijo Ruotanen.


The Vyborg Deaconess Institute was modelled after other Evangelical deaconess institutes which had been founded in Europe and financially supported by members of the city’s high society and trading companies. In November 1939, 70 years after its foundation, the institute’s work in Vyborg was ceased at the break of the Winter War and in February 1940 the institute and adjacent church hall were damaged by air raids. After a brief interim period, in 1940 the institute was re-located to Lahti, where it remains to the present day. The Institute’s function and operations have changed across the years. During WW2, the Institute’s hospital served as a military hospital, while in the following decades it focused on health work, old people’s homes, daytime care facilities for the disabled as well as training healthcare and social workers. As the role of the welfare state in providing social services and healthcare increased in the 1980s, the institute also adjusted its services to compliment those areas which were not covered by the public system.

Picture: Lahti Diaconia Institute’s archive/colored by Veijo Ruotanen.


The Institute’s function and operations have changed across the years, following changes in the surrounding society. The education sector has been now outsourced to the The Diakonia College of Finland and the foundation focuses on providing aid and support to those at risk of becoming socially excluded or left without other forms of help. In addition to helping families, youth, migrants and the elderly in the Lahti area, DILA has extended its work to helping Roma people in Romania and is looking into further expending its international work and cooperation, guided by the same principles and values, which have formed the core of its existence since the beginning.

Our work

Walking alongside families and assisting the elderly

One of the core forms of DILA’s current work consists of assisting families and providing care for the elderly. The latter has for long been one of the main services provided by the institution, practically executed through intensive sheltered housing in the DILA care homes Betel and Marie, residential housing in Tammipuisto and volunteer work to provide company to lonely elderly people in their own homes.

The Betel and Marie care homes are for elderly in need of continuous assistance, Marie being the first care home in Lahti specialised in the care of elderly suffering from memory disorders. We emphasise the importance of a warm atmosphere, professional care by familiar staff and opportunities for recreation in the homes and in the surrounding nature. Rather than just providing essential care, we strive to ensure a high quality of life for elderly living in our homes. In the Marie home residents also benefit from the closeness of our childcare facility, Teemula, located in the same building.

The Tammipuisto residential housing is likewise a homely option that DILA offers for those elderly, who are not in need of specialised care. The residential housing complex provides basic services such as meals, a security phone and opportunities for physiotherapy and other guided activities.

Our Särö volunteer program, which reaches out to families, youth and migrants, also offers a volunteer service to elderly people living at home. Our trained volunteers for a relationship with the elderly on a one-on-one basis, visiting them bimonthly. The volunteers do not offer professional assistance, but rather provide much needed company to those suffering from loneliness.



The Särö volunteer program is also a means of assisting families with young children and individual young people in need of a helping hand. Our volunteer coordinators meet each family or young person and pair them with a suitable volunteer. The families or youth can be directed to our service from many different professionals, such as social and healthcare services and youth workers, but many also personally contact us in search of support. Like with the elderly, our volunteers visit them at least bimonthly, providing a reprieve to tired parents or walking alongside a young person in numerous different ways.  Pregnant people or those with small babies can also join our peer support groups in the Vauvan Taika program, if they need help in bonding with their baby or have questions about their relationship towards the unborn child.


Picture: Sonja Siikanen


Youth and employment services

Another core ´focus in DILA’s work consists in assisting marginalised youth and helping them find their place in society.  This work consists of various employment services for young people, a drop-in centre for teens aged 13-17, and our ‘future workshop’ (Tulevaisuuspaja) program.

Our employment services range from workshops aimed at youth below the age of 29 to rehabilitating programs aimed at unemployed people between the ages of 18 and 64. The workshops offer young people an opportunity to familiarise with social- health- and educational work. Our current workshops include Stoori, which gives young people a means to familiarise with social work, the future workshop, where young people who have taken part in Stoori are assisted in envisioning their own futures, and the digi-workshop where young people practice specific skills in the digital arena. Our rehabilitation program Mahis is aimed at unemployed people between the ages of 18 and 64 who require assistance in finding their way back to employement or further education. Our clients are often directed to us by social and employment professionals in the public sector, and many of our programs receive public funding.



Walkers is our drop-in centre, situated in the middle of Lahti, aimed at teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. Walkers provides young people a safe space where to spend time alone or with friends, play games, enjoy a free cuppa, and chat with safe adults who are genuinely interested in the young people’s lives.

Participatory community projects

Finally, in DILA we believe that the best types of services are created in cooperation with and by the people they are for.  Our participatory community projects are just about that, creating services for the people with and by the people themselves. One such project has been developed in the suburb of Kärpänen, where our worker together with the local community has created a number of programs that the community has perceived as needed, such as a peer group with childcare for single mothers and a community lounge with activities for the elderly. Another form of participatory work is that conducted among migrants, in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences LAB and the Sylvia home association. DILA’s role in the migrant program is that of providing volunteers, who take part in supporting migrants in integrating to the Finnish society.


Picture: Sonja Siikanen


Text summary and traslation: Anna-Maria Mitchell