Keen to contribute

English21. September 2015

Marthe Dahlin has always known that she wanted to give of herself and her time to help others, after having enjoyed every opportunity in her own life. She is now fulfilling that wish.

Interview: Teresa Grøten
Photo: private source

SONY DSCDahlin flew off in early June from Norway to Surkhet in Nepal, where she will be spending a year teaching English to disadvantaged children.

Why did you want to go to Nepal?

I’ve a burning desire to contribute my time, my education and myself in working actively to provide better opportunities for others. I quite simply want to do my best to make a difference to the lives of these children, and I’m fully prepared to devote all my time, energy and commitment to achieving that.

In addition, I’m also at a stage in my life where this type of work suits me admirably. I’ve qualified as an English teacher and have no commitments to keep me in Norway – this is my opportunity to fulfil my dream of helping somebody.

You are working with Blink Now. What sort of organisation is this?

It was founded by American Maggie Doyne in 2008. You can read her inspiring story on the website at blinknow.org. The organisation says it focuses on building community, through caring for children, education, healthcare, empowerment and sustainability. Blink Now built an orphanage in 2008, and that was followed two years later by Kopila Valley School. That’s where I’m going to be teaching.

Why choose this body?

I devoted a lot of time and energy to identifying a project or an organisation which I felt was working for the things which mattered to me.

I’m very concerned to ensure that children and young people have an opportunity to fulfil their dreams and live their lives in a way they’ve chosen for themselves. Blink Now concentrates much attention on strengthening these children and giving them more opportunities through education. And I’ve always had a dream of travelling to Nepal. Living there while simultaneously working for a cause I believe to be important will be a huge – and very challenging – adventure.

What do think you’re going to encounter there?

I believe I’ll meet a completely different world from the one that’s familiar to us here in Norway. That applies not only to houses, nature, language, food and climate, but also to people, everyday life and routines.

I’ve never been to Nepal before – or even that far to the east. So this will be a big adventure and I’m trying to keep a completely open mind.

What do you hope to learn from your stay?

Hopefully, I can return to Norway with a rather different perspective on things. By that, I mean we Norwegians find it easy to forget the poverty and much of the suffering in the world. We live so far away from it, after all, and can thereby sometimes lose a little perspective on such issues. Not that we don’t have suffering here, but it’s not always visible.

Orphans and poor children make up a large proportion of Nepal’s population, and I don’t think living for a whole year where you can see such poverty at close hand is something you’ll forget so easily. I hope that’s the case, anyway.

My hope and belief is that this year will inspire me to continue to help, to challenge myself, and to encourage everyone around me to do the same.

What do you feel you have to offer?

At a purely academic level, I’ll be teaching and passing on English. I hope I can inspire my pupils and create happiness in class, and awaken an interest in the subject.

But I also hope I can contribute in other ways, and bring some of what I’ve acquired from my more liberal and secure upbringing into their less stable lives. That applies perhaps particularly to girls – what they can achieve, what they should expect of themselves and each other. They’re are a vulnerable group in Nepal, as in many countries.

It would be fantastic if I can contribute to them in any way whatsoever, as an example, as a mentor or as a source of inspiration.

Is your commitment typical of Norwegians in your age group?

My impression is that many want to help. Naturally, though, not everyone can set aside a whole year and move to a different country. Fortunately, people can contribute in other ways – both here in Norway and via donations to various organisations. I’d have found this difficult to do without a grant from the Kavli Trust, for example.

Blink Now wouldn’t have been able to build or maintain the school or the orphanage without gifts from individuals and foundations. I hope and believe that this willingness and desire to help will only increase in strength among many young people.

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