What makes a young woman of 19 years go to India and do charity work? Read Emma Hjortshøj's story about an experience in India that she had never been without.
My high school years were coming to an end, and I was like so many other young people and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My friends were all going to different things – college, backpacking adventures in Asia or further studies and I didn't really want any of it.
Since I was very small, I have traveled in India with my family and experienced poverty up close. I think it dawned on me quite early on how the Indian children grew up under completely different conditions than myself. And then when I got older and grown up enough to be able to make a difference to the children I had seen over the years, it was the only thing that felt completely right. For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to tear 3 months out of the calendar and spend them on something more important than myself.
The only thing I wanted to achieve by going to India and doing voluntary work was to be allowed to be something for children who really needed it. But a personal goal I had in getting out and experiencing the world in that way was also to try to step completely out of my comfort zone. And that was one of the things I ended up learning the most from.
I was thrown into some wild situations where I really learned to trust my intuition and dare to act on it. It has helped me in so many situations afterwards. I often stop and think “Hey, you've been standing alone in an Indian hospital where they don't speak English, with a feverish baby. You can handle this”.
I came across Gadens Børn for the first time when I met the founder of the organization, Pia. We quickly agreed to hold a meeting to find out if Gadens Børn was right for me - and one month later I was at the airport with 40 kg of LEGO in my bag. Gadens Børn is a non-profile organization that fights for vulnerable and homeless children who live on the streets of Kolkata in India.
The best advice I can give is that all you have to do is focus on what makes you happy in your life and find something you find fun. It's perfectly okay to pull the plug once in a while and not have a plan for the next 3 years. Allow yourself to feel and let go of everyone else's expectations and thoughts about what you need to do next. I personally learned a huge amount about myself doing volunteer work and I'm sure I only learned those things because the decision was based on my own dreams and not someone else's.