This week, we are featuring Sandra Ruiz for our CC Spotlight! We interviewed some of our country coordinators a few months ago so we could share with you a little bit about their lives. All of our CCs are hardworking, passionate individuals who enjoy serving their communities and working with ISL volunteers, and they all have their own very unique stories. Here’s what we learned in our interview with the Peru country coordinator, Sandra!
Where is she from? Where has she lived?
Sandra is from Chachapoyas in the Amazonas Region, located in northeastern Peru. She now lives in Lima, the capital of Peru.
What does she love most about her country?
She loves the landscapes and the history of Peru. She also likes the food, which is very delicious and diverse.
What is her family like?
Sandra is one of six siblings and her mother, and she lives with her husband in Lima. Two of her siblings live in Lima, one sister lives in the United States with her husband, and she has another brother who lives in Pisco, which the south of the capital, Lima.
Where did she grow up? What was her childhood like?
She grew up in Chachapoyas in Amazonas. She had a fun childhood and was always playing with her cousins and friends who lived close to her neighborhood. She lived there until she was five years old, when she moved to Lima. That part of her childhood was a little difficult, going from a small, calm town to live in the big city.
What was the most impactful moment for her during her education?
It was very important for Sandra when she started her professional schooling. She attended the Professional Department of Engineering to study industrial engineering, and there she started to prepare for her career.
What has she worked in besides being a CC?
Currently, she works in a civil construction company in the areas of quality management, safety, occupational health, and environmental impact.
At what point did she realize what her calling was?
When Sandra was attending university, she worked for a time in the area of management systems. It was there that she developed her specialty, and when she was finished at the university in 2008, she discovered her call to volunteering and the meaning of serving those in need.
What was her path to becoming an ISL CC?
Her brother-in-law, who lives in the United States, studied at the University of Michigan; there he met Sonia Hernández, the ISL international director, in the laboratory, and they became good friends. ISL needed staff in Peru, so Sonia contacted Sandra, thanks to her brother-in-law’s recommendation; that is how they started working for the program. Sandra did not know any English, so her first experience with a team was very difficult. Her first student spoke to her completely in English, but she had only taken the Elementary English course in school, where she did not learn enough to understand what the student was saying to her. It was the first time that she had traveled by airplane, and she did not have much experience because she had just left college. She talked for two or three hours on the phone with Sonia even though they had not met in person, and Sonia gave her English lessons on the phone and instructions on how to work with a volunteer team. A few days later, Sonia called Sandra again, and Sandra was so nervous that she wanted to quit the program, but Sonia encouraged her. Sandra finally had the courage to pick up the volunteers from the airport and meet them because she knew enough to be able to have basic conversations with them. So she picked them up from the airport, and that is how everything began. At first it was very difficult, but she says that one learns with time and practice. She dedicated herself to studying English for three years, which helped her to communicate with the volunteers, and now she speaks more fluently.
How long has she been working with ISL?
She has worked with ISL since 2010.
A brief summary of what she does as a CC:
Sandra says that the most difficult part is finding staff who speak English fluently because it is difficult to find fluent English-speakers in her country, since it is a Spanish-speaking country. She prepares the schedule for the volunteers, finds communities and their leaders, manages the medical inventory, trains the staff, and administers medical supplies, the materials the volunteers will use during their stay, the initial budget, and team expenses. Afterwards, she makes payments, finds transportation, and coordinates everything related to the logistics of taking care of a volunteer, multiplied by the total amount of volunteers who come annually. She also makes visits to the communities, does interviews, coordinates hospital and health center visits, and interviews doctors who speak English. The topic of food for the student is also important because the student is not used to traditional Peruvian food, so she looks for options that are similar to the diet of an American. So, with a maximum of one or two months before a group comes, she does all of the scheduling, planning, and itinerary.
What inspires her most about what she does?
The most inspiring thing for Sandra is firstly that they are helping her people; they help the people who are most in need. She says that maybe they do not give them a lot of things because the program is more based on serving and learning from them, but they do provide them with knowledge about health and prevention, and that is enough. She says it is also rewarding to see someone come to give their time to help those in need, especially in her country, and it fills her with joy and excitement. She learns about another culture and their customs with the Americans. The volunteers learn to adapt to them and their culture, and she encourages them to keep an open mind because Peru is not like the United States. In the USA, they have a system of norms and rules that are very different, so Sandra tells them that if they keep a good attitude and try to adapt, they will have an unforgettable trip. Another rewarding thing for her and her staff is knowing that a student leaves full of new knowledge about their country, and that in the end they decide to study medicine. Many times, the volunteers come to try out medicine, and in the end discover what they want to do in life. These trips define what they are going to do in the future, and the students reaffirm that when they get into medical school, or whatever other career path that they have chosen. She says it is a beautiful thing to see that they chose it because of their trip.
Want to serve in Peru? Check out our upcoming trips here!