University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


If I can inspire the kids, that’s great!

REFUGEE ASSISTANCE – Medicine student Mathilde Baumann works as a volunteer coordinator of tutors to asylum seeker children and immigrant children, while on maternity leave

It’s been one year since Mathilde Baumann, who studies medicine at the University of Copenhagen, was supposed to go on maternity leave. But as she had always wanted to do volunteer work, she decided that it was the time.

Mathilde is 28 years old and became a mother to Aster in July last year. She had previously been a mentor for foreign students and created events for charity Mellomfolkeligt Samvirke, but she hadn’t worked as a volunteer on a fixed basis.

“I have thought about it since I began university, but I thought that I was too busy. After a few years, I realised that I’ll never reach a point where I have a lot of time. It’s about prioritising your time with what is important. So before I went on maternity leave with my daughter I thought, ‘now I’ll do it!’”

Five to eight hours a day

Baumann lives in an apartment on Amager with her boyfriend and one-year-old daughter. She began as a volunteer with the Danish Refugee Council, offering homework and study assistance at Sundby Library for 1.5 hours once a week.

During her maternity leave, she took over as a volunteer coordinator, which means that she spends between three and five hours per week sending emails, planning shift plans and coordinating volunteers.

“In the beginning I spent a lot of time on it – maybe one hour every night. But now I have come better at finding volunteers who actually have the time for it, so that we don’t need to recruit a new one every month,” she says.

A good role model

The children who come to the homework assistance sessions are the children of immigrants and asylum seekers. Age-wise, they range from seven-year-olds to and high school students and university students.

Although Baumann doesn’t earn money from the work, it gives her something she could not do without:

“I was hooked on it from the beginning. It is so lovely, and you come to know both the children and the volunteers well. And if I can be a good role model for some of the kids, that’s great. I want to inspire them. When they ask me a maths or grammar question which harks back to something I learned in school, they can see that it pays off to do your homework,” says Baumann.

Her daughter Aster, nestled in a pram on the balcony, has just woken up from a nap. She is rubbing her eyes and looking curiously at us, a pacifier in her mouth. Aster has sometimes been taken along to meetings at the tutoring sessions when Baumann’s boyfriend was not able to look after the baby.

“It’s gone ok. The children think that she’s cute. But I have not been there with her for long periods at a time, because she can tend to get noisy if she’s bored,” says Baumann with a smile.

Work at night

In one month, Aster will begin day care and Baumann will return to her last semester of medicine studies. But she has not thought about leaving her job with the tutoring service.

She has prepared ahead and found the volunteers needed over Autumn. This way she can work at night, while Aster sleeps.

“At the moment, I have a month where I’m not studying. So I can plan for it. I am the kind of person who sees through what I signed up for,” says Baumann, who isn’t sure how much the volunteer work will benefit her CV.

“When I began, I wanted to have the experience with being able to coordinate a business. I don’t know if I’ll end up using it later in my industry. I hope so, but the most important thing for me is that it is inspiring and fun.”