Fishing-based tourism entrepreneur Juha Happonen has been running fishing trips and excursions for special groups, such as people with learning difficulties and multiple disabilities, for more than 20 years.
Juha Happonen, a Mänttä-Vilppula-based entrepreneur, brought professional fishing instruction to Finland in the 1990s. With a degree in rehabilitative therapy, Happonen has been designing and providing fishing services for special groups for years. He also won an award for his trolling and spinning excursions for special groups in a 2006 tourism product competition.
‘My customers find fishing excursions and trips very empowering’, Happonen explains.
Juha Happonen (left) has been running fishing excursions for special groups and international tourists for more than 20 years. For a Chinese visitor, catching a massive pike is a huge experience.
Fishing jetties with railings have been built at the best fishing spots at the Vilppulankoski Rapids. In addition to accessible jetties, Happonen’s fishing boats are wheelchair-accessible. Ice-fishing events for disabled people have also been held in Vilppula.
A new step in making use of the therapeutic effect of fishing is a year-long training pilot launched by the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, which will produce Finland’s first water-based rehabilitation instructors for special groups at the end of the year. There are approximately 15 students, and many of them have previously worked both as fishing and hunting instructors and in nursing.
‘The course is called IchthyoCare, and “ichthys” refers to fish and fishing. Fishing and water-based therapies have a recreational element, which makes them enjoyable, motivating and activating, as well as a rehabilitative element, which is goal-orientated and longer-lasting. Both elements offer psychological, physical and social benefits’, explains Happonen, who is coordinating the IchthyoCare project and acting as the principal teacher.