Sabbatical allows recruiter to pursue her passions overseas

Since childhood, Nigel Wright Consultant Carina Hultgren wanted to travel, or more precisely, she wanted to experience a world different to the one she lived – “The further away culturally from Norway and Europe the better.” Early investigations opened her eyes to the plights of less fortunate people, leading to a passion for engaging with charitable causes. Raising money for Save The Children was the beginning of that journey, but it wasn’t until 2007 during a gap year from university, that opportunities for more meaningful advocacy activities, were revealed. 

A six-month backpacking trip took Carina to the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Cuba, Africa, Brazil and Argentina where she immersed herself in different cultures and new experiences. Not living like the average tourist either, but living amongst and contributing to local communities she visited. One place in particular — The Dominican Republic — was to have a lasting impact on Carina’s future. Three months of her trip, in the end, was spent exploring the Eastern half of Hispaniola and each year since, she has returned on vacation; travelling extensively, forming local friendships, learning Spanish and gaining a deep knowledge of the country.

Carina did come back from that first trip, though, to complete her degree. Graduating with joint honours in economics and business administration in 2008, she immediately joined the workforce at an Oslo based executive search firm. Suddenly she was doing a job where the personable skills she discovered and honed on her travels — namely getting close to and gaining the trust of local people so they’d invite her to live and become part of their communities — were immanently transferable. It was a job she excelled at, and one that funded her overseas expeditions.

A fortuitous meeting in 2015 presented Carina with an opportunity to engage on a deeper level with the country she had grown to love. Since a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck neighbouring Haiti 2010, The Dominican Republic has welcomed tens of thousands of displaced Haitians over its border. Many Haitians who emigrate to The Dominican Republic, however, do so illegally without attaining official papers. Consequently, they have no access to basic public services like healthcare and education and living conditions for the immigrant population is generally very poor, with many inhabiting slums on the northern coast.

Through her network, Carina was introduced Siv Mika Engebretsen, a Norwegian humanitarian worker who had recently established Amigitos — a charity operating in The Dominican Republic, seeking funding to build a school in one of the slum villages and provide health support for children of families who has emigrated from Haiti. Carina was delighted to help out and started fundraising for Amigitos (which means ‘children’ in Spanish) as well as getting involved in the wider project, during two vacations between 2015 and 2o16.

Meanwhile, after five years ‘learning the ropes’, Carina felt it was time to take the next step in her recruitment career and in 2016 joined the Norwegian division of Europe’s number one consumer sector recruitment specialist, Nigel Wright Group. Since volunteering for Amigitos, however, Carina had explored ways which she could combine her professional job with doing charitable work overseas. Her annual trips to The Dominican Republic were rewarding, but a week or ten days wasn’t enough to commit to initiatives which she desperately wanted to get involved.

With the school now built and attended by 60 students, Amigitos needed resources ‘on the ground.’ Carina approached her boss at Nigel Wright and explained her desire to contribute more time to the Amigitos project. Nigel Wright was more than happy to accommodate their employee’s ambitions. A three-month sabbatical was agreed, and in January 2018 Carina returned to the Dominican Republic to work in the school, write content for Amigitos’ website and assist with further fund-raising efforts. All the while living in the village.

Carina says the success of the school means students now enjoy much of the same educational activities and privileges as the local public schools. There’s also a programme in place which enables elderly residents to eat at the school or, if they’re too sick, for the children to take food to them in their homes. Consequently, Amigitos is currently planning further projects in and around the village and seeking donations from Norwegian companies to enable it to expand its role in the area. In Carina’s words:

“It’s a fantastic, rewarding and humbling project and I’m so grateful to Nigel Wright for allowing me the chance to dedicate my time, positively changing the lives of the people living here. I’m privileged to work for a global and caring organisation willing to support its employees who want to get involved in doing charitable work. I’ll be visiting Haiti, too, for the first time before I return to work, which again wouldn’t have been possible without Nigel Wright’s encouragement and gracious offer of extended leave.”

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