Sandra Mabel Velandia Lopez - Volunteer of the Month for May 2020 | Immigrant Services Calgary
Volunteer of the Month

Sandra Mabel Velandia Lopez - Volunteer of the Month for May 2020

Sandra Mabel
Velandia Lopez

This May, we would like to recognize Volunteer of the Month Sandra Mabel Velandia Lopez. A long-time volunteer who was one of the first to help us with our Virtual Volunteer Programing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2015 Sandra has been an outstanding volunteer, helping out at Immigrant Services Calgary in a variety of different roles. She started out by conducting computer workshops on different topics for our Spanish speaking clients. She also contributed her time by volunteering as an Office Support Volunteer and Translator in different departments around the agency. Most recently, when we transitioned our services online and sent out a call to volunteers who could help us by volunteering virtually, she was one of the first to respond. She has been leading the Learn to Salsa Dance! virtual workshop for the Youth Inclusive Program (YIP), helping our youth stay active while staying at home. We really appreciate Sandra’s adaptability, and above all her positivity and her willingness to help during this challenging time. Thank you Sandra!

Here is Sandra’s story:

I believe, that we as human beings can take any challenge as an opportunity to enhance our character; and we have a great ability to solve problems by learning and serving. I will share with you some of my personal information, my immigration story, personal achievements, my experience volunteering with ISC, and my hobbies and interest.

My name is Sandra Mabel Velandia Lopez. I know it looks long for some people, but please let me explain to you the importance of each part of my name. We have two last names because the first one, in my case Velandia, is my father’s family name, and my second, in my case Lopez, is my mother’s family name. I love my family, so I am proud to have my two last names. My job in my home country, Colombia, was as an IT teacher online and face to face. Besides that, I was also an Instructor for topics such as Customer Service, Communication, Phone and Email Etiquette, Information Management, Metrics, Quality Control and Ethics. In Canada, my actual occupation is sales associate in a retail store called Marshall where I have worked since November 2016.

My family and I landed in Canada in 2011 in Saint-Lambert  Quebec, so we speak French. In 2013, after 2 years of French studies and working hard to find a job, where the most common question was “do you speak English?’, we decided to move to Calgary. We chose Calgary because we believe the city environment is appropriate to raise a family. By this I mean that Calgary is a wholesome place, we appreciate the fact people are nice, and our kids can go to Catholic schools. When we landed in Calgary my English language test scores were 1-1-0-1, so I had very basic English. I started to borrow English textbooks at the library to study at home by myself. In January 2014, all my self-study efforts paid off when I got 3-3-3-3. This was the beginning of a five year journey at Bow Valley College (BVC).  I attended the English Language Learning program and I was awarded the President’s Award in 2014. Then, I did English for Academic Purposes where I was awarded the Academic Excellence Scholarship-English Language Learning, and Super Mentor awards in 2015. After that, I did my Upgrading Program where I was awarded the Harbhajan Singh Toor Newcomers Award in 2016. Next, I did my Diploma Program in Business Administration with a Major in Human Resources. I was awarded the Dean’s Award for the Centre for Excellence in Foundation Learning in 2017 and with the Insurance Institute of Southern Alberta Award in 2018. Finally, I got publicly recognized in the Bow Valley College’s newsletter “HR MAJOR FINISHES 5-YEAR-JOURNEY WITH THE COLLEGE” on February 11th of this year. Hence, I enjoyed and fully appreciated all the steps in my BVC journey.

I will share with you my experience volunteering with ISC. I started volunteering at ISC in 2015 when my English level was only enough to hold a basic conversation and help out people. I have volunteered at the Interpretation and Translation Centre as an Office Support volunteer. Also, I volunteered to deliver an Excel workshop, and support events such as the ISC Power Breakfasts, Job Fairs among others. I also got my Co-op Work experience in the volunteer program in September 2019. I appreciate that ISC has allowed me to participate in the volunteer program because it has helped me to improve my English skills, my integration to the Canadian community, and feel more confident in my process to give back all the blessings this wonderful country has given to my family and me. I believe volunteering is the best way to improve language skills, integrate into the Canadian community and give back some of the happiness we got.            

Finally, I will share my hobbies and interests. My main hobby is dance. I dance to several kinds of music especially Salsa and traditional Latin Music. This hobby has given me the opportunity to dance in the Calgary Stampede Parade in 2018 and 2019 with the Peruvian group. My main interest is continuing to learn from all the experiences I encounter to enhance my character and improve my ability to serve and solve problems. Overall, I feel blessed for all opportunities I have had, and to share with you a short explanation about my personal story.

“Sandra’s online Salsa dance workshop was so fun and engaging. Her passion shone right through the camera, and we all had a great time. It is awesome to be able to count on our volunteers to teach new, fun skills, especially during a time of social distancing.”

-Kayla Lis, Program Development Officer

Immigrant Services Calgary’s Settlement & Community Centre