How I found my purpose: Ernst Suur’s story

From a young age, Ernst knew what he wanted to do with his life: to make a change in children’s lives.

Now, director of the incredible NGO War Child, that hasn’t changed. From volunteering as an 18-year-old in Uganda, to running a charity that helps children all over the world deal with the psychological effects of war, this is Enrst’s story.

Do you feel that you have a purpose in life and if so, what is it? 

My purpose is to make a change in the lives of children. Because, I've seen that with a little bit of support, they gain self-confidence and pride and these things help so much. Not even just the children of War Child, but my children too, and all children.  

 

Was there a certain point in your life where that became clear? 

No, I think it has always been within me. I also think how I was raised has helped me fulfil that. What I’m doing now, is really what my father wanted to do. He had to pick a job to earn money, so, when I was 18, and it was my turn to choose a career, both he and my mum supported me. My daughter is now 12, which means in six years, I’ll say go to Africa if that’s what she wants. It's not the answer to your question, but I find it important to say that support from my parents, from a stable family and their trust and confidence has been amazing and important for me to find and execute my purpose. 

 

My first trip to Uganda was when I was 18. You're still very much a child at that age (especially boys), and it was life-changing. I was like, this is it, I knew this was where I needed to be. I didn’t just want to work with people in the Netherlands, I wanted to combine my yearning for adventure with making a change, and I did it. 
 

What was your journey following your purpose? 

Sometimes I have a drink in the bar with people, and they ask, how do you do that? It's not that you have to read a book or study this or that. It's just: follow your dream.  

 

When I was a kid, I was an okay student, but I wasn't the best in mathematics or the best at reading. I sometimes felt insecure about it. I was not crying in the corner of the classroom, but it didn't do me well. However, outside of the classroom, in the village I grew up in, I went to a football club. I’m fast, but I’m not a good football player. I had to fight my way onto the first team. What I experienced there, was being part of a group. They valued me for what I could do and that helped me to make the next step and get the self-confidence to try other things as well, because I thought if I'm good at this, I can probably be good at that too. Later, I thought if that was the case for me, maybe it would be the same for other kids.  
 

When I was 18, I started working in Africa as a volunteer. I was super naïve. I meant well but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was working with children, researching what impact sport has on the social behaviour of kids living on the streets. War Child heard about me doing this and asked me to join them. A position didn’t exist, so they created it for me. I was just doing what I felt passionate about and 20 years on, I’m the director. I've never had the ambition to become a director. I come from the field. I’ve worked in Kosovo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Uganda, Sierre Leone, etc, and that’s where my heart is. I've been doing this work for a while and I've seen with my own eyes the difference we can make. I still talk to some of the children, who are now adults, and they tell me that when the whole world was crumbling down and they didn't have any hope, War Child helped them to feel safe in a world full of horror. That is important for children, for their mental wellbeing, that’s why I do this work. 

 

What does it feel like when you are living with purpose? 

Thinking about purpose is rather intimidating. If you just do your best, follow your heart and be nice to others - that's purpose, without thinking! 

 

When do you feel like your life has the most meaning? 

It goes back to what I want for children affected by war, but also when I see my children growing up with confidence. Also, when my wife can make her dream come true and when we can just be a family that can contribute to the world.  

This article is part of our How to Find Your Purpose masterclass, a series of articles and videos designed to help you live a life with more meaning. If you want to start debunking the myths around purpose, reveal what makes your heart beat faster and bring more joy into your life, you can find the rest of the content here 

Jessy Deans

Jessy Deans

Jessy Deans is a copywriter with a strong appetite for thought-provoking stories, travel and anything covered in white chocolate. With a background working in the fast-paced television industry, she has learnt the importance of self-care and downtime and believes there’s no such thing as too many candles. She is passionate and committed to her lifelong search for the perfect meal and subscribes to the doctrine that ‘if you can’t love yourself, how are you going to love somebody else’ (Ru Paul).