Stories of women. MARGO ORUPÕLD, Head of Pärnu Women’s Support Center Life roles: manager, hard-core entrepreneur, adventurer, handicraft enthusiast, (an artist’s) mother, wife, life saver
“My life moto is this – excitement and fun is a must. There’s no point in doing anything if it’s not exciting. Not even fighting for human rights.”
Foto: Martin Kirikal
“Train yourself to think like Margo,” I’d like to suggest to all women. Myself first of all.
We meet Margo Orupõld at Pärnu Women’s Support Center where we are handing out Christmas presents for the women. We talk for hours. We listen, pick up quite a few things, and reckon there’s oh so much to learn. A shot of pure inspiration, hopefully for you as well.
We already knew that Margo, an Economics graduate of Tallinn University of Technology, used to be a hard-core entrepreneur. Her portfolio of activities is colorful indeed – she founded a handicraft business, ran a grocery store, mediated loans, and through the Association of Business and Professional Women encouraged other women to set up their own business. But how did this hard-core entrepreneur end up in the field of social affairs?
Margo explains that she was invited to Pärnu Support Center to launch it. “Quite honestly, I didn’t feel connected to this topic at once, it was somehow distant to me; in school it was me that kicked the boys’ asses.” (Wry smile here)
“But where things need to be organized, I’m the woman for the job. To start with, I helped plan training courses, found suitable facilities, the educator, brought pastries and coffee. But then they said they also needed a manager. And my reaction was the same as yours – wait a sec, I’m an entrepreneur, not Mother Theresa. But I had to look into a sea of sad eyes and I agreed, for a year to start with. In a year’s time I had got my hands all the way dirty.
In this shelter, my interests and the needs of others meet in their own peculiar “right” way. Contrary to all preconceptions, what we do does not fall in Mother Theresa’s domain. Even here, I remain an entrepreneur; I have my own interest at play. My moto is this – excitement and fun is a must! There’s no point in doing anything if it’s not exciting. The same applies to the Women’s Support Center. Pure excitement: to conjure up change in a field that you have no knowledge of to begin with. New complicated stories walk in the door one after another and my passion is finding solutions. Never mind what’s happened to these ladies in their life; rather, we’ll focus on what can be done!
Another capital I am accumulating here is knowledge. I’ve always said that if I feel I am no longer furthering myself here, I’ll leave. But you have to have an extremely expansive perspective here - to be able to come up with solutions, I have to learn about psychology, law related issues, and much more. There’s a lot of room for development!
We wonder how Margo manages to handle all these complicated stories and situations without something breaking within herself. Naturally, this question as well receives an answer that many women (including us!) would do well to remember.
Margo: “We do not focus on these recurrent sad stories and that will considerably lessen the trauma. We cannot change the past; we mold the future, focusing on solutions. This works.
Sometimes the women are even angry with me. They say I’m such an unwise person, I don’t understand them at all, don’t cry with them at all. But I cannot comprehend what use crying together would have.
We do not focus at all on what’s not right and try to always see things from another perspective. An example. The year was 2013 and an important event took place in the parliament - they were talking about violence against women. At some point, the nation’s Minister of Social Affairs stood up and declared in a resounding voice: “There’s no such problem in Estonia!” Ouch, how embarrassing; ouch, how ignorant! But what should I have done - cry? No, we made it our goal, even wrote it into our development plan and printed it on T-shirts: “There’s no such problem in Estonia!”
Indeed, we’re not about to run out of bold ideas, acting with joy helps make thing happen. We don’t want plain approaches; we’re not looking to mimic others. We’ve chosen the policy of doing things with fun in mind - then no one feels bad or embarrassed. So far, we’ve pulled it off, even the state has wondered how we achieve so much with so little money. Our channel of ideas is the Tallinn-Pärnu highway - good ideas spring up, especially when driving alone.”
To round things off, we as well gather up our courage and steer the conversation from more profound topics to the subject matter of looks. It feels kind of silly to ask but we ask anyway – “You look cool as a cucumber; we see you and can’t help but think: “This is a brave woman that knows how to make herself heard.” Did you first take care of your look and then began to make some noise or did you realize “on the way” that looks help you get to where you need to go?”
Margo: “I think that experimenting with your looks - much like tackling many different things - is a matter of courage. And the thing with that is, you either have it or you don’t.
The worst things in my life are limitations. Our world has many limitations: “I may not do this” etc. I always ask myself and others – but where does it say that I may not?
I’m not quite sure where my courage and freedom come from. My dad raised me. My dad was inclined the same way – „anything is possible“. We lived by a river next to a machine plant, a dairy plant, a fish processing plant etc. I roamed about with a bunch of boys. My doll houses sat in fishermen’s boats. This was Pippi Longstocking, pure and simple. For some reason I remember constantly jumping down from places, bones more often broken than not. I had the taste of freedom in my mouth; my life was not a prim and proper weekend stroll in the park.
My child’s an artist (Flo Kasearu, for those that do not know. Ed.) Whatever has compelled her to create has most likely come from somewhere as well. From somewhere where our common roots are, from our genes. Yes, indeed, it’s out of our hands, that’s the genes we have. Close the windows if you like, it still keeps flooding in.“
We hope it will keep on flooding. So that we may have an example to follow!