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Don Héctor: 18 years of representing older people at HelpAge

25 Jun 2010

At the end of June 2010, HelpAge's regional centre in Latin America celebrates Don Hector Sandoval's 18 years of service. Don Hector has worked as a messenger, assistant, collaborator and is a friend to many staff, partners and older people fighting for their rights in Latin America.

"I fulfilled my dream"

Don Hector says: "I fulfilled my dream of working for an organisation that supports older people. I feel I have done the institution, myself and my family proud."  At the tender age of 64, Don Hector joined Valerie Black Mealla, the regional representative of HelpAge in Latin America at the time, to establish the Regional Development Centre in La Paz, Bolivia.

He says: "It seemed like a great opportunity to expand my knowledge and experiences inside Bolivia as well as beyond its borders."

Don Hector had previously worked in the mines in Potosi and as a mechanic in La Paz. He then joined HelpAge as an office assistant and messenger. He has participated in public fundraising campaigns, ran the documentation centre and organised the publications."Don Hector has done so many things and done them all exceptionally," says James Blackburn, HelpAge's current regional representative for Latin America.

Learnt a lot, shared a lot

"To return to work was fun, it kept me busy and fit," comments Don Hector. "At the beginning it was not easy. We had an office on the 5th floor of a building with no lift, we had one old typewriter, a desk and a chair. That was it. I have lived through five different offices in 18 years."

Valerie remembers how Don Hector had to rush to the centre of town every morning to send the telexes to the London office and return in the late afternoon to pick up the responses. There was no internet, no email...

"I am grateful to Valerie for the trust she placed in me. I learned a lot from her. Afterwards more people and staff joined us and HelpAge started to grow. And from all those people I have also learned a lot and shared a lot," he adds.

"I have lived and felt what it is to grow old"

"I feel that I am the representative of older people in HelpAge. I have lived and felt what it is to grow old. I feel that things are now on a good path; that things are going to work out okay for older people.

"Those who remain in this organisation are committed and young. The road is already laid, it is just a question of continuing along it.

"Before we had no rights, we didn't know where to turn. Now the rights of older people are being recognised and older people are being given their rightful place in society."

Happy memories

"I have many happy memories, especially of the meetings with older people's groups and the times I was able to share with them. The people from my country and others that I have met through HelpAge is what I most liked about my work, it has strengthened me as a person."

At the age of 82, Don Hector is finally retiring, but he does not plan to stop working. He wishes to remain active:

"I want to keep visiting the older people's groups, like the Awichas. I will also have more time to spend with my sons and seven grandchildren. Life is not only about making or having money. It is about learning and giving. At the end of the day we are not judged by what we have but by what did and what we gave."

"At HelpAge you are making a commitment to work for older people."

Around 40 people came together at HelpAge's offices in La Paz to wish Don Hector well as he retired.

The president of the National Association of Older people of Bolivia, Don Carlos Loza, joined HelpAge's James Blackburn and Valerie.

Representatives of other older people's organisations, HelpAge partners Fundacion Horizontes, CETATE, the socio-legal centre for older people in La Paz, the Association Awichas and HelpAge staff past and present were also there to congratulate Don Hector for the tremendous work he has done for older people.

Don Hector, we wish you all the best!

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Sarah Marzouk
Country: UK
Job title: Digital Communications

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.