It all started in the Philippines....
Born, formally educated, and started my professional life with American multinationals while still attending evening college.
When the opportunity came, I moved to work as a cabin crew for Cathay Pacific Airways, a Hong Kong-based international airline.
Philippines is where my eyes and sensibilities were opened to the harsh realities of life. Privileged to live with well-off relatives who taught me how to confront life through disciplined training on practical and life-battling skills at the very young age of 10: from washing and ironing my own clothes, cooking meals, methodical and organised housecleaning. It developed in me resilience, grit and the habit of thinking of street-smart solutions to whatever challenges came my way. These are skills I apply in my life.
Live like a "gypsy"....
As a flight stewardess, travel was my life. It brought me to different places, introduced me to different cultures and lifestyles. It enriched my life. It infected me with what i called the "gypsy" lifestyle: travel light, go everywhere. Sing and dance while you're at it. I married a Swiss national. He's a garment technician. His job took us to Vienna, Germany, New Delhi, Cambodia and now El Salvador. It satisfied the "gypsy" in me: moving to different places - albeit no longer traveling light but still singing and dancing.
A volunteer at heart.
It moves me to tears whenever I see people suffering. So I've always been drawn to participate in activities I felt would and could contribute to improve a life. It also was so much fun. And useful. This continues to this day. Although I take it a lot more seriously using all I can and giving almost all I am.
The FUN activities:
While living in Hong Kong, I volunteered to teach English to little children at the Vietnamese refugee camp. I already had my two daughters then, so I was quite well-armed with nursery rhymes and acting out the words, which were and are still the best ways to get the attention of children. When we moved to Vienna, I was always one of the mothers to volunteer in school activities: teaching English, as a chaperon during school excursions, handicraft activities, and other fun stuff with kiddos.
This continued in Delhi, India. Together with a friend, we worked with a children's clothes manufacturer. We raised funds by selling children apparel from excess production to the big expat community in New Delhi. We solicited donations from shoe factories for the children; we bought school materials, books as well as uniforms. All the proceeds went to three underserved minority community schools on the outskirts of Delhi. My weekends were dedicated to being a Sunday School Director/teacher.
In Cambodia, together with my husband we managed a small bag factory of about 100 workers. It was used to rehabilitate victims of domestic violence and trafficked women by training them skills to enable them find employment. It was a social enterprise operated by Hagar International, a Christian NGO in Phnom Penh. I served as a volunteer Sales and Marketing Director.
From the experience I've gathered through years of volunteering in social projects, I've refined (I hope!) the concept of a self-sustainable social enterprise and apply it to the situation special to El Salvador.
In June 2012, we started the pilot stage of the GARROBO project, a women empowerment program with seven young women aged 16-22. Four came from a women's shelter and three from a NGO working in a gang-infested community.
With about 44 contenders including many big brands, the GARROBO project won Fundemás "Marca Positiva 2014", a nationwide award in community service in El Salvador.
A dream come true!
In April 2016, the GARROBO project became a registered NGO and a fully-pledged non-profit social enterprise.