How Did I Get Here: Tracing SVH Staff’s Life Journeys

One of the best things about working at Sacred Valley Health is its diverse staff. We’re always eager to learn how each person came to work for our little nonprofit organization in Peru. Recently, we sat down and talked with the Director of Operations, Anna Herdeck, and talked about her story.

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Name: Anna Herdeck

Position: Director of Operations at Ayni Wasi

Where is home for you? I am from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I was living and working in Chicago, IL before I joined Sacred Valley Health.

What did you study your undergraduate career? I studied psychology at Goshen College.

When was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be abroad? I always thought traveling was fun, however, my first cultural immersion experience was in my Junior year of undergrad during what we called our “Study Service Term”. I spent 6 weeks in Lima and 6 weeks in Huaraz, Peru learning about the language and culture and volunteering in a small orphanage. It was the first time I had spent any significant time abroad, and it really affected what I wanted to do with my future. I fell in love with Peru, and after witnessing first-hand the health disparities in the communities, I knew I wanted to grow my experiences in Global and Public Health.

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Anna leads a leadership workshop with the docentes.

What have you learned about yourself by working abroad? So many things. After college, I spent two years in Honduras with the Peace Corps, which taught me more things about myself than I have space to share. Some good, some not so good. I learned that I love meeting new people and trying to effect positive change in the world. I learned that I really like homemade tortillas. I also learned that I have a tendency to retreat into myself when things are stressful, which was a hugely important thing to start to understand in my early twenties. Knowing these things has helped me be more effective in both my professional and personal life. When you truly throw yourself into an experience, whether at home or abroad, I think it always has the chance to show you things you never knew about yourself. You’re forced to really get to know yourself.

What are the greatest challenges working abroad? What are the greatest rewards?

Discussing “living abroad” is a really general topic that is so dependent on where you are and why you’re there. It’s different for everyone. My experiences abroad have been unique and have their own unique challenges, but I think the hardest thing for me is being away from my friends and family in the US. When you are so far from “home” you often miss things: birthdays, weddings, births. However, this all feels small compared to the rewards of working with an organization like Sacred Valley Health, which are huge. I feel rewarded every time I see one of our promotoras working within her community or taking the time to learn about a new health topic. For me, being here is about seeing what we can do as an organization to improve the health of the communities where we work. Each time I feel like we are taking a positive step in that direction, I feel rewarded.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Hardest question of the bunch. Today I will say… mint chocolate chip!

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