Sonja Knudsen

On the flight to my first Global Volunteers adventure in service, I read an article about Albert Schweitzer. Dr. Schweitzer was quoted as saying “I am life that wants to live, amidst life that wants to live.” These words became immediately important to me, and I have used them as a thought for the day for the journal at each of the sites where I have volunteered – Tanzania, Romania, and India.  Although I have come to each of the communities with the hope that I can contribute and help, Dr. Schweitzer’s words emphasize sharing as much as serving. The people I have learned to know – villagers, city dwellers, children and adults, and most certainly the team leaders and members – and I have shared knowledge, laughter, affection, frustrations, irritations, and daily tasks. Our lives have been joined for a short time, and the experiences have always been enriching for me.

What are some of the many memorable moments as a Global Volunteer? It is difficult to choose. When I talked working with refugees in the U.S., one of the school girls I taught during one of my Global Volunteers service programs in Pommern, Tanzania, asked me if some of the refugees come from Tanzania. I replied that although Tanzania has many problems, the circumstances in the country have not recently created refugees to other areas. She looked at me and said “We like each other.” Naïve perhaps, but it is a hopeful reflection about the unifying efforts of the first president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere.

As a Global Volunteer who has served at two children’s hospitals in Romania, there have been tears of delight and tears of sadness. To watch a little bundle of energy, who has had at least two surgeries for cleft palate, bounce up and down like a prospective “Nadia Cominici”, made us all laugh. To calm a child down by playing train in a stroller in the hospital hall in Bârlad, Romania, was a small success. To wonder and worry about the beautiful little girl born without limbs was difficult to bear, but later pictures show a happy, smiling child. To see the tension on a small boy’s face as he was returned to the hospital made me hope that future volunteers would get to know and nurture him.

Under the tutelage of the Global Volunteers Country Manager and Team Leader Raja Chinnappan, in Chennai, India, his wife and staff, we were busy every minute. The staff at the day care tried to make sure that our team members had a tea break, but we quickly returned to the children, bowling with plastic bottles and a small ball, to singing with gestures, and to practicing in English the names of fruits and vegetables. It wasfun to have three little girls greet us at the door the last day chanting “Auntie, auntie, auntie.”  Our time with the older children at SEAM Children’s Home was a time of help with English conversation by asking and answering questions, by talking about their lives, by just sitting, perhaps holding hands, and enjoying being together, and by playing games.

I send my heartfelt thanks to the Country Managers and Team leaders, to the Global Volunteers main office staff, and to the local community hosts for providing experienced and knowledgeable leadership, safe environments, and the  opportunity to live and work with people near and far and to celebrate that which we share and to value and respect our differences.

Sonja Knudsen – 5 Time Volunteer