History of the Helsinki Deaconess Foundation

The Helsinki Deaconess Institute has been transformed in its 156 years from a typhus hospital and training centre for young women into a producer of diverse social and health services.

Role model in Central Europe

The Deaconess Foundation has operated during three centuries. It started as a hospital and as a training facility for young women in 1867. Its work diversified in the 20th century and in the 2000s it began to target resources at services for groups faced with severe problems. The initiative for establishing the Foundation was taken by Aurora Karamzin, a noblewoman.

Contact information
Jaana af Hällström, Curator
Tel. +358 40 485 3545

The German model

When the Helsinki Deaconess Foundation was founded there were dozens of similar institutions in Europe carrying out diaconic work.  The most important model was the Kaiserswerth Deaconess Institute in Germany, the work of which involved training deaconesses and nurses, helping the poor, care for former women prisoners and homeless children. Kaiserswerth was founded by Pastor Theodor Fliedner and his wife Friederik in 1836. According to Kaiserswerth’s example, the deaconess institutes were established one after the other – first in Germany and then in other European countries, and gradually outside Europe too.

Our story in a nutshell

150 years of Helsinki Deaconess Institute (pdf)