An interview with Sophie Thérèse Tüllmann, Lifeline Foundation’s intern from Berlin, Germany. Sophie, age 18, arrived in Manila last October and will be working with Lifeline till May 2015.
1. What motivates you? What are you most excited or passionate about?
I am passionate about so many different things. Beginning with the fact that I love music and everything that has to do with music: playing piano, singing, listening to music, and especially dancing (ballroom dancing). But I also love children, seeing how they are growing up and with how much innocence and curiosity they go through life! I have four little brothers, so that I am used to see them growing up, but every child is different and I have learned so much from the way children act sometimes.
I also love reading. When you are reading you have the possibility to travel around the world with your thoughts. Your imagination extends and you can learn so much while you are enjoying at the same time. And because I was traveling through the world with my thoughts while reading, at certain moments I also wanted to travel around the world by myself.
2. Tell us about your goals in life
I want to change something in third world countries. I want to help people help themselves, so that they don’t need to depend on generous donors and so that they are able to defeat the poverty, the corruption, the violence in their countries because they want to change these things and because they have the possibility to do it by themselves.
I know that I am not able to do this on my own, I will need help, and I also know that I will not be the one seeing the final results. But I hope that in my life I will be able to start some projects so that they will grow and grow and one day achieve the aim I was looking for. And I would say that this is one of the reasons why I ended up with Lifeline. Because I really can identify with what they are doing! Sentences like: “Changing the world one life at a time” or “Light overcomes darkness, every time” are exactly the way I am thinking. Maybe first will come a war, a disaster or something else that will destroy a lot of lives. And obviously that is not good, but we will learn step by step how we can learn from everything that happens.
A more realistic and feasible goal, is to teach the people living in poverty, what they have to do for making their dreams come true. And the most important fact is to educate them. Education is such a important thing, because without education you will end up in poverty. But it does not matter if you are poor or rich, education is the key for a better future and so I want to bring education to poor areas. Maybe that will be the beginning of my big dream/goal.
3. How did you end working with Lifeline Foundation?
I finished high school in May 2014 and I wanted to take a gap year before entering college. But I also wanted to do something that would help me in my future work. When I am back in Germany I would like to study geography and then take a master’s degree in international relationship and development policy. After that I would like to work as a development worker trying step by step to change something.
Colleagues of my parents are working in a German foundation here in Manila. And because I wanted to do my volunteering year in a third world country it was a fast decision coming here to the Philippines. My parents’ friend recommended me to Lifeline because she also has participated in some of the medical missions and she was convinced that I would be happy working together with Lifeline. And she was right: I really identify with the things Lifeline is doing and I am so glad that I found Lifeline because I can really help changing lives!
4. Tell us a little about yourself.
The first 9 years of my life I grew up in Germany. I was born in Heidelberg, but I moved a lot of times because of my mother’s work (before I left to come to Manila I was living near to Berlin). My parents separated when I was 1 year old. Both, my mother and my father, found a new partner very quickly so that I grew up in two families. I loved it, because I got to know two different lifestyles. Sure sometimes I missed not having one real family because it is difficult switching between two families, but the older I got, the more I found out how many advantages there are to having two families. One was, that at the age of 9 I decided to move with my father and my stepmother to South America, specifically in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was a wonderful experience and I would not have missed it! I had to adapt to a completely new language, culture, lifestyle. I began a new life. I lived in one of the better parts of Montevideo but nevertheless I was confronted every day with poverty and the big, big gap between rich and poor people. This was an experience that shaped my life. I am so blessed to have had the possibility learning a new language at this age so that now I can speak it fluently. I am so blessed to I had the opportunity of living in a nice apartment, surrounded by my father and my stepmother, being able to go school and being educated with high standards, but at the same time experiencing life surrounded by poverty. Growing up the way I was able to grow up was nothing less than a blessing. I had parents, siblings and friends that loved me; I had education and a safe home.
5. Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?
My parents deeply influenced the way I think about all this. My mother always was working with people, first as a pastor and later as a mediator and kind of pastor for atheists. So she was always in contact with people, listening to their stories and I learned a lot just listening her when she was talking about all this.
My stepmother is also one of my key mentors. She works at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation which offers political education, conducts scientific fact-finding research for political projects, grants scholarships to gifted individuals, etc. The mission of this foundation is to bring democracy to all countries and the way of the foundation works out their mission is very good. I was inspired from the work of my stepmom to think about a career as a development worker. And also my father was always supporting my interests in this area. Without the support of my parents I would never have come to Manila and so I just can say that I am blessed to have parents like them!
And now, being here in Manila together with Lifeline I can say that Betty had become one of the persons I look up to. The way she is handling with all the challenges that are renewing every day, the way she begins every day with a smile. She has the common touch. Betty is able to convince everybody to help, to change something and she will do all this always in a friendly, helpful manner. She is working with passion and she makes the persons around her also do their work with passion!
6. Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today?
Yes! The life-changing experience for me that convinced me to do what I am doing now was the time I spent in Uruguay. I learned to see the world, the European (for me at this moment granted/naturally) consumer society through other eyes. And now that I am here I would say that the time I will spend together with Lifeline is also a life-changing experience for me and will led me to be doing what I will be doing in the future.
7. Describe your experiences working with Lifeline?
I have been here for one month, but I am enjoying what I am doing. I am not just working on one project, I can help in different projects at the same time. I can help promoting Dance Unite and I will be able to dance in Dance Unite (and that’s wonderful because I love dancing). I can teach in the Satellite School, I can visit orphanages, I can update things on the computer.
But the most important thing is: During my whole life I have been given so much and now I have the possibility to give back! I can help and I can change!
I am totally convinced that Lifeline in one day will be a big organization and I hope that I can help to change a lot of lives! The key to the success of Lifeline is, that they work together like in a family. Everyone is able to help and everyone is given the chance to help and after just one month I feel like a part of this big, lovely family!
I love you Lifeline!