Random Acts of Kindness

Conheci a Sara através de um amigo que lê o meu blog e que segue o Facebook do Mum's.

Disse-me ele: 'Tens de conhecer a Sara! Aposto que vão ter muito que falar'. E estavas certo, muito certo, Telmo!

Esta dinamarquesa de 28 anos está, neste exacto momento, no Cambodja, numa missão de voluntariado. A entrevista já foi feita há algum tempo, mas só agora a consigo publicar. E de cada vez que leio a nossa conversa, sinto mais admiração e mais respeito por esta miúda e por aquilo que faz e pela forma como pensa. Quando penso no termo Random Acts of Kindness penso tantas, e tantas vezes na Sara!

Aposto que vais gostar de a conhecer. E podes ler mais sobre ela, seguindo-a no seu blog 'A window seat, please'.

Tak, Sara!!

Read first part of this interview, in English, bellow:


   Tell us about you - let us know better who you are and what are you doing now.
Currently I am preparing practically and mentally for spending the next seven months in Cambodia with the World Health Organization’s HIV department where I will be doing some research on high-risk group’s access to health care services, especially in the resource constrained areas of the country.

In one year from now I will hold a masters degree of my dreams, and people love to ask me where I see myself one or two years from now. However, I am looking back on the past year and a half and am puzzled how much can happen in such short time, so imagining the future sometimes seem quite impossible.

Ever since I finished high school I have spent most of my professional time working with children. Everything from working in a regular kindergarten to (re)habilitation in hospitals and designing the daily activity environment for traumatized refugees.
I have a background as an Occupational Therapist and being the wide and rather diffuse profession it is, it has brought me many interesting experiences in a variety of settings.

For the same reason, one and half year ago I had a great fulltime permanent position with the Danish Red Cross Asylum, but I eventually realized that no matter how grateful I was and regardless how rewarding the job was, I was not in my right element. Taking drastic decisions can be intimidating and scary, but sometimes that is what it takes to learn the most important and meaningful lessons. I was lucky to have the opportunity and social support to make such decisions, turning my world upside down. I took some time off, started doing yoga and I met the coolest person I have yet come to know, and she gave me the courage to take the big step; I rented out my flat, sold half my furniture, and my car, quit my job, applied for a masters program that seemed impossible to get in to and went to India. In India I used my skills as an occupational therapist and volunteered in a children’s therapy center in a small mountain village in the Northern regions. The challenge was enormous, professionally and personally. And for all the things I hated it for, I loved it just as much, and I would never change all the lessons I learned from living and working in such a local foreign environment with anything.

Meanwhile I was accepted in the master I applied for, so that’s what I have spent my time engaging into ever since I returned from India. And that was when I truly realized that motivation and interest is not enough to gain new knowledge. It is a good start, but it is hard work. Although I had an advantage of having peeked into the world of development in practical ways, the academics and the theoretical background to understanding what development in fact is, all the interrelated aspects of health, education, culture and wealth and not least why it is important has been overwhelming and it has been yet another challenge to keep up with. It was a new world for me, and I have often felt I was lacking behind, and might not quite fit for the academic world. But it feels great to have travelled, explored, observed and experienced, and then add on the theoretical understanding of practice, and learn how we can keep optimizing the opportunities we intend to create for the world’s poorest populations.

   How did you become so attached to volunteering? What moves you?
It was not until I was in college that I started engaging in volunteer work. I had prior to starting my Bachelor’s taken time off to travel around the Pacific and South East Asia. More or less randomly that brought me on a trip across Cambodia. I literally just travelled through, spending only four or five days in the country. And I remember being so embarrassed about never having heard about the country before, or the Khmer Rouge, that I took my Lonely Planet and highlighted every time the cruel regime was mentioned in their history, just to visualize the impact it had had on what I was standing right in the middle of. I had never before been to a poor country, and I came from Vietnam, which I thought would be a good example of one such. And it was, but still Cambodia managed to set things in perspective. But not until I reached Thailand, and even more so when I was back in Denmark, did I realized the impact Cambodia had had on me. I knew deep down that I needed to go back one day to learn more. Such things aren’t really rational.

It took me almost three years before I saw the chance to return. I spontaneously booked flights for a summer holiday and signed up for volunteering at an orphanage for three weeks. That was actually my first taste of volunteer work. Although I learned I am a horrible teacher, I really got the taste of doing something not because I needed to, but because I wanted to. And that is really what I love about volunteering.

One thing led to another, and I soon started engaging in various volunteer jobs in Denmark, from chairman of board in a Danish patient association, to visitor friend in a high security prison to project group member in an organizational development collaboration between the Danish and the Zimbabwe Red Cross. All the while I made sure to let my studies take me abroad whenever possible. This meant I interned at a highly specialized clinic in Graz (Austria) for children with eating disabilities and went on a study trip visiting Ghana’s health- and education institutions. Worlds apart, but everywhere people have the same worries when they are sick. Some are just more unfortunate than others and don’t have the means to try to mend the suffering. That needs to change.

And let’s not forget how much we can learn from meeting other cultures, and have a peek into different worlds and ways of living. I get constantly impressed with men who are, without complaining, hard working throughout their lives doing demanding jobs, which they can’t even consider if they like because the only thing that matters is that they have a job. Or children who across the world manage to play games with things that children here at home don’t even have the imagination to notice, or to make games appear out of nothing, because that is all they have. Or women who patiently and smiling build a home for their family with the little that they have or who wait in never ending lines to see a doctor. So many people out there seem to have a strength and bravery, which we have long forgotten in the piles of luxury and privileges we bathe in.

  I image that doing what you do must be hard. Where do you find the energy you need?
I have learned that it is much harder not to do it. We might rather want to hear the nice cliché, that I like to help out the most unfortunate and that I wish to save the world from its misery. Despite how much that is also part of the truth, I am doing what I am doing for my own personal gain. Not because I feel a better person if I do something for other people, or because I am religious about it in any way. But the more misery I come across the harder it also is for me to just hear about it in the news and then contribute to a yearly fundraising campaign. That is enough for some people, and I fully respect that, coz that is an important, if not crucial, part of development work as well.
I do what I do because it gives me energy, I don’t need to find that energy anywhere. Regardless of what we all enjoy doing the most, what feels truly right for us, if we are healthy and in good form, we rarely need to find the energy to do it.

That said there are always obstacles no matter what you do. And working with people who are either marginalized, discriminated, traumatized or in other ways deprived of benefitting from a meaningful and healthy life will bring many such obstacles, and sad stories often outnumbers the good and happy stories. When that happens, when I see a little girl whose progressive illness I can only help halting, but never stop, or when I see the most hollow and sad eyes of a boy who doesn’t understand why he, just because he fled a country at war, cannot make lasting friendships or be allowed to attend public school, then I remind myself of the present and ask myself; ‘What difference can I make, right this moment?’ ‘With all the authority I don’t have to make long-term decisions, and with all the power I don’t have over human life, what can I do to ease the situation?’ And when I manage to help the little girl find new ways to play, when I see the boy find a way to smile again while making yet another friendship and not least when I manage to plant a small seed of hope for their parents, then I know I helped. And that gives me energy. I, we, need to focus on the good stories. It is those that tell us that a difference can be made.

3 comentários:

  1. Até fico sem folego... Há pessoas fantásticas, que me emocionam pela facilidade com que se dão.

  2. Mais uma pessoa tão inspiradora! Não há nada que pague a paz e a gratidão que alcançamos quando seguimos o nosso caminho! Obrigada, Magda, por estas pérolas!


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