What is your professional title, purpose or passion?
I am a social entrepreneur, humanitarian and education specialist, and I do all three on a daily basis!
What did you want to do when you were a child and what changed?
There is an audio recording of me when I was about 7, telling everyone I was going to travel the world and go to Croatia of all places, because I had a flashlight made there and it sounded exotic. Having been born and raised in a tiny country in South America called Uruguay, Croatia seemed like the ultimate explorer’s dream. I still remember when I did eventually travel across Croatia some 20 years later, I sent my aunt back home a photo and she reminded me of that little girl, and how far she had gone. I always wanted to travel, discover the world, meet people and speak different languages when I was little. And not much has changed: I left home at 19 and never went back, I lived in 5 countries, learned 6 languages and dedicated my career to teach people about all of it. The only difference now which I hadn’t foreseen is that I have a passion for helping people, specifically those who are also immigrants like myself but unlike me, they didn’t leave their home countries by choice but by necessity, and yet we’re judged so very differently.
What's the best career advice you've ever been given?
In a nutshell: If you can’t find what you’re looking for, make it. If you can’t find the job you want to have, create it. If you can’t find a community that you want to be part of, start it. I’m doing exactly that and it’s wonderful to see how many people were looking for the same things but were waiting for someone else to take the plunge and get it started.
What is the best thing about your current working environment?
I guess now that the reality of working from home has become the new normal, I’m loving that I get to hang out with my cat and my plants all day long ☺
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
I see myself in my first home (my partner and I have been saving for ages to buy a house) with a big and comfy home office, running my 2 social enterprises which support refugees. Oh, and definitely cuddling a second kitten too!
Tell us more about a charitable organisation or project you think is great.
I might be a little biased, but I think Give Your Best is pretty great :)
What drives you?
Any final comments?
Thank you for giving me and other women the opportunity to tell our stories.
What does a normal day look like for you?
Days hardly look normal lately! But usually I will start the day with a walk around the neighbourhood while I drink my morning coffee. I used to walk 40 minutes to walk and back every day, and since working from home pandemic style, I have to force myself to start the day walking around to get the energy flowing. I usually start by checking into my ‘day job’, which is in the field of education management at Cambridge University. However, during breaks, lunchtime, in-between meetings and after working hours, I will check in with my team of incredible women who are volunteering to help me run Give Your Best, which is a newly launched platform where we upload photos of women’s clothing people want to donate, so that women who are refugees or seeking asylum can ‘shop’ them for free. We then liaise with both parties to ship items directly and safely. It’s a really exciting initiative and it’s getting a lot of attention, we have sent over 40 pieces of clothing to 15 women in the last 2 weeks! So I admit that oftentimes I’m more interested in working on this project than on my paying job at Uni. But I’m also Chair of the Refugee Support Committee at work and I’m founder of the Refugee Empowerment Collaboration Forum, which is a network bringing together professionals in Corporate Social Responsibility, social entrepreneurs and people with lived experience of forced displacement, to collaborate in a more effective way. This forum is part of a larger project where I am designing an education and skills support programme for people seeking asylum in the UK, which links mentors in corporate organisations with students in the programme. What I’m trying to say is that I’m ridiculously busy! It’s not uncommon for me to finish work at 11pm and to use most of my annual leave to work on my projects. I used to travel a lot, but staying put the last 6 months has forced me to start all the projects I had been dreaming about the past year.
What have you achieved that you feel most proud of?
You know, it wasn’t until I taught 19-year-olds at University that I realised how young an age 19 years old is, and how young I was when I left my country, my family and my friends to move to the other side of the world on my own. I am incredibly proud of that young girl and what she overcame to become the woman I am. I am also very proud to have hiked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in 2012. I walked on my own for 5 weeks over 900kms and it was life changing. Currently, I am very proud to have started this charitable organisation which fills me with hope every day.
Tell us about a a woman who inspires you
Each and every one of the refugee women I meet regularly through my work. Their resilience, bravery and determination is unparalleled. I am in awe of mothers in those terrible circumstances. I grew up without a mom and it always amazes me to see mother’s superpowers.
What was your biggest failure?
What do you like most about yourself?
My compassion and determination to make shit happen to help others.
How can we make the world more inclusive and accepting?
Human connection. Talking to people. Listening to people, their stories, their experiences, their views. We have such an amazing opportunity to learn from others who have lived different lives in other countries, who come from different cultures with different views and cooking different food, speaking different languages. Isn’t it fascinating? I love learning about people’s stories.
What skills have been key to your journey so far?
Open mindedness, flexibility, compassion, self-awareness and perseverance.