Isabel volunteers at our residential care home in Ingle Farm. A passion for languages, a desire to learn about the world and strong family ties are defining themes in Isabel’s life.
Born in Lima, Peru, Isabel is the 7th of a family of 12 children (10 boys and 2 girls). ‘Growing up, I studied Russian, German and English and I was always drawn to professions that helped people, like becoming a doctor or nursing. Back then you could start studying to be a nurse at 12 years of age, however, my father was worried that I was too young to leave home.
‘My father always wanted each of us to learn a profession. He would often say, he couldn’t leave us money, but he could support us to establish professional careers. I ended up becoming a bi-lingual Executive Secretary at the University of Engineering.’
Eventually, Isabel and her eight-year-old daughter came to Australia. ‘My two brothers were already living here and life in Peru had become quite difficult because of the political situation. I knew we would have a positive future here.
‘In 1990, I studied and became a Spanish interpreter and a Bilingual Services School Officer (BSSO) and I continue to do phone interpreting in Spanish.’
While those early years were challenging, Isabel says her faith kept her strong. ‘Mum came to visit in 1992 and eventually she moved here as well. It was amazing, we were so close, and she lived with me and helped me raised my daughter. In 2004, when she was 88 years old, she returned to Lima for a family visit and had an accident. As soon as I got there, she started to pick up, but I couldn’t leave her in Lima, and I couldn’t stay. We both came back to Adelaide. I cared for her until she moved into Ingle Farm, nearly 15 years ago and I started as a volunteer.’
Isabel’s mother was Adriana Natividad, known as ‘Nati’. ‘She was so full of life, and she loved to sing. I would visit every single day and Mum loved it when I would bring her Peruvian food. Every Saturday, I would take her to a Church service held in Spanish. She stayed connected to her culture and beliefs. I came to know the home very well and I felt like part of the furniture.
‘After mum passed away, I continued my volunteer work. This place is now part of me. Some people don’t have many visitors and I can be that person for them. Volunteering makes me feel so good and being here – it feels like my mum is still with me.’
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