Victoria Santos is completing a third year of her Board term for the Whidbey Institute, after a hiatus which included international travel, family time, and intensive work with two other organizations. She’s an impassioned community leader, volunteering for several area non-profits while running her own organization, Sister Island Project, alongside Co-Director Peter Blaustein.
Sister Island project is “a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting respectful international friendship and cultural, educational, and technical exchange between people of the United States and people of the Dominican Republic.” Victoria describes the work of the project as involving volunteers in such projects as the building of schools, homes, and wells in her village of origin, in the Yabacao region of the Dominican Republic.
Victoria also works and wears many hats with Young Women Empowered, an organization with close ties to the Whidbey Institute, as the program manager for the volunteers and mentors, and as a facilitator.
In a recent interview, Victoria described her motivating passion for liberation and freedom. “My driving passion is liberation—self determination for myself, and for people who have been marginalized and oppressed.” We spoke of the challenges of upholding those values in a culture based on materialism and consumption, and of the importance of personal integrity in the face of that challenge.
Victoria’s involvement with the Institute began with Power of Hope, a program offered by Charlie Murphy and Peggy Taylor. She came out from Massachusetts for an eight month apprenticeship with Power of Hope, during which time she assisted with several camps in the region and at Chinook. Soon after, she accepted a job at the South Whidbey School District—a role in which she stayed for 14 years! She became deeply rooted in our community. “I found it very nurturing and supportive, and I was able to grow and give back.”
Board service has been an opportunity to both give and learn, Victoria said. One of the rewards of Institute service, she said, has been the opportunity to work with a talented group of peers. She describes her fellow board members with respect, excitement, and appreciation. She said, “I love the energy, for instance, that Kate brings to the board—she embodies competence, delight, wonder, curiosity, and humility. I enjoy being around her and watching her work.” Victoria continued in her praise, touching on the qualities she admires in our Board President. “I like the leadership that Gabriel is bringing. His depth of commitment to the Institute beautiful to watch.”
Victoria lives in Seattle and Whidbey Island, travels extensively, and retains close ties with friends and family in her birth village. South Whidbey has a special place in her heart. Recently, she and I sat in the Westgarden together, just before she launched into a week at the Y-WE Write youth retreat on the land. Our conversation closed with her observations on Chinook. “I love this place and the many things it offers. This is a common space. It must be accessible to many, and that is worth giving of my energy. I advocate for that.”