While the outside world is trying to turn you into something you’re not, celebrate your beautiful inner universe!

Sonja Svensek
From Saudi Arabia
8 months in Hamburg
Animal welfare hero


You work for the animal welfare organisation Four Paws – cool! How did you get there?

I initially worked in the corporate field of training and education in Saudi Arabia, which was rewarding but it wasn’t what made my heart truly sing from within. What drives me is working for a cause, which gives life more meaning, so I transitioned into the field of mental health and worked as a counsellor which I enjoyed very much.

I felt a strong connection to helping animals ever since I can remember, and back in 2008 I set up one of the first animal adoption and rescue platforms in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia called PIN (Pets In Need). It wasn’t long before I felt it was time to spread my wings a little and carry on working for animals in a different country. I’m now working for Four Paws, an international animal welfare organization here in Hamburg. It’s true when they say, “Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life again”! Even though people working for an NGO work tirelessly; the drive is not monetary, but rather collective-change driven, which makes one feel richer in more ways than money ever could!


Spoken like a true hero! So how did you discover this passion for animals?

I can’t pinpoint an exact time when I awakened my inner love and honor for animals, but it must have been when I was a baby. I’m grateful to my parents who encouraged my sister and I to explore nature, appreciate animals and to be kind to those in need of help. I think every child in their natural state is born with a sense of love for all beings including animals. It’s when we grow up that fears, certain beliefs and conditions become ingrained within us which makes it hard to see differently.

Helping animals is not a job nor just a passion for me. It’s more of a value and responsibility I feel we have especially in today’s times when it seems easier to connect to technology, robots and machines instead of living breathing beings. My life choices try to reflect my values as much as possible, hence I follow a vegan diet and try not to fall into the rat race of mass consumerism as I have in the past. I am nowhere near the sustainable and zero waste way of living yet, but every small positive change in the right direction motivates me.

Though my work at Four Paws now is not directly handling animals, we are working on a massive scale helping to positively encourage industries, retailers and the public to be more compassionate towards the treatment of animals, whether it is through changing farming systems, breeding and keeping conditions, saving wild animals, or spreading awareness to make more conscious food choices. There are definitely stricter animal welfare laws and regulations in Germany compared to other countries I have lived in. People are also more health conscious and it’s quite the norm for people to have dogs or cats here compared to Saudi or Rome. Hamburg seems to be very ‘companion animal’ friendly, so it’s nice to see such acceptance and tolerance for our furry friends. I still wonder why we don’t see nor treat farm animals such as cows, chickens and pigs in the same loving manner as the rest of the animals we don’t eat.


Good point. Besides saving animals, you’re also a self-proclaimed vintage addict. Any tips for us how to find the good stuff?

Ah yes! I’m completely and utterly obsessed with vintage and antique jewelry and generally the high that comes after purchasing a piece for an absolute bargain! I’m convinced I’m the best bargain hunter out there! I studied Jewelry through the Gemological Institute of America but a lot of my knowledge comes from getting hands on experience. Some people can spend hours at a bookstore, or art gallery, and I do the same but at flea markets. It helped that my father is an antique collector and taught me a lot about differentiating the junk from the valuable pieces. It doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby if you know what to look for when rummaging through pieces at flea markets, estate sales, charity shops, vintage outlets and antique markets.

When shopping for vintage jewelry, bring a loupe so you can inspect jewelry better and look out for stamps or markers marks inside. Some sellers don’t know what they are selling, and might tell you something could be silver when in fact it’s not. The great thing about technology today is you can google the value of similar items online within seconds whilst deciding whether the item is a hit or miss. Be fair and kind when negotiating a price. Sellers need to feel happy with a sale whether they are inclined to make a profit or not, just as you need to feel satisfied with an item you buy. It all lies in the intention of why you want to buy an item. Is it because it reminds you of a specific era, or because it looks unique and suits your style or because you are buying to re-sell? Whatever the reason, the most important thing is that you should enjoy the treasure hunt experience and have fun!

To know more about Vier Pfoten (Four Paws) and how you can help animals, visit: www.vier-pfoten.org or http://www.four-paws.org

Get in touch!




 What are some cool fleamarkets around Hamburg?

Flohschanze Flea market in Schanzenviertel: One of the biggest flea markets in Hamburg where you can find and sell pretty much anything! http://www.hamburg.de/flohmarkt/4245446/flohschanze/

Gänsemarkt Antique Market: This is a great place for vintage and antique items only! http://gaensemarkt.org/veranstaltungen/

Immenhof Flea Market: This usually runs during the summer months starting in May until September but should not be missed as it’s known as one of the nicest markets to visit.

Spielbudenplatz Flea Market: This flea market also only runs during the summer months, with the first one starting in June. It is loved by students and those with unique tastes in mind. https://spielbudenplatz.eu/erleben/events/flohmarkt

Fabrik: This cool indoor place holds some cool concerts and events and occasionally, they hold flea markets where people of all ages sell the things they no longer want. You can find great household items as well as clothes and jewelry though not always antique or vintage unless someone is getting rid of their own collection. http://www.fabrik.de/

>> Check out many other city tips from Hamburg locals here

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