Martine Haugen is from Oslo, Norway and studies law at the University of Oslo. She works at a youth center run by The Norwegian Red Cross every Tuesday, and loves every part of it. She enjoys traveling, partying, and watching her favorite soccer team, Manchester United!
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with SAVE in South Africa?
I was getting quite tired of studying law at home in Norway, and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue.
I decided to take a break from my studies and do something I had wanted to do for a long time--travel!
I’m working at a youth center run by the Norwegian Red Cross in Oslo, and I wanted to bring my experiences from that into a completely different place. And SAVE was perfect.
What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?
Everything! It’s not an underestimation when I say that I had the time of my life! I made friends from all over the world, and the friendship we developed was something really special.
We worked together, ate together, partied together, spent our free time together, we really did everything together! And of course, seeing the kids react so thankfully for the work we do.
It is a wakeup call for all of us coming from rich countries where people are taking all the material goods for granted!
Tell me about one person you met. [It could be a local, a fellow program participant or a member of the SAVE staff]
It’s pretty hard to choose one from all of the amazing people I met. My best friends down there – Mike, Frederik, Marc, Sofie and Kristina – made my stay ten times better than I ever expected, and I’m so happy that I have kept in contact with them.
But I think the one that made the greatest impression on me was Nikki. She runs the project in Skandaalkamp. Even though I wasn't in her group, she made me realize what a true hero she is.
She was always concerned about getting enough food for her babies in Skandaal, but she always found a way to figure it out! She made t-shirts with the handprints of the kids and sold them to the volunteers.
She also made bracelets and did everything she could think of. She is a person that thinks more about the kids than herself, and thanks to her, the kids in skandaalkamp can get food and education!
What was the best moment of the entire trip?
This is not an easy question either, haha! My entire trip was awesome, and it’s difficult to pick one moment. But one day we had swimming lessons with the kids where we were trying to teach them how to float.
One of the girls was holding onto me really hard, begging me not to let go of her. I asked her to relax, and said I would be right there. I held her back under the water while she laid flat, and after a while, I removed my hands from her.
She was floating on her own, and I have never ever seen a smile that big! She was hugging me, saying thank you, and wanted to float around in the pool all day!
The christmas party afterwards at Elundini was also perfect! All of the kids got a gift, and they were running around with big smiles the whole day!
How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, etc)
Well… I decided to continue with my law studies when I got back to Oslo. But, I was more motivated than before I left.
Now I’m sure that I want to use my law degree to work for human rights and children’s welfare! Personally, the trip made me a lot stronger.
Traveling alone to a completely unfamiliar country was a good experience.
Even though I was terrified when I left Oslo, I came home with hundreds of impressions, and felt like I could never ever complain about my life in Oslo again.
I still think about all the kids I got to know in Cape Town, and I miss them more and more.
Before I left to South Africa, all the poverty was just something I had seen on television. Now, I relate the poverty to faces. The faces of the kids that I was so lucky to work with every day…