INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA WILBY
Hi, my name is Lynne and I have been lucky to call Gran Alacant home for the last 5 years. People fascinate me and I love to hear about their adventures and life stories. Over the next few months, I will be sharing some interviews with GA’s very own Superstars!
What brought you to GA?
“My husband John and I contacted Atlas International. They flew us over from London to look at properties in Torrevieja, Guardamar, Santa Pola and Arenales. When they brought us to Gran Alacant, we liked it so much we decided to buy off plan. Initially we used the house as a holiday home until we decided to relocate here permanently 3 years ago.”
Working Life in UK
Much of Sandra’s early working career was in the field of Social Work. She worked in a variety of different areas including residential care for adolescent boys, hospital social work in cancer and maternity wards, child-care and addiction and substance abuse.
Just as Sandra completed her Postgraduate in Social Work at Southampton University, her first husband returned from the Falklands War. Sandra believes he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and that this was a contributing factor in the breakdown of their marriage.
Having worked in Child Protection myself, I know how overworked and stressed some Social Workers are. In fact, many quit the profession because of high caseloads, stress and a negative working environment. When I asked Sandra how she coped she said, “One day I thought, there must be more to life than this and I applied to work overseas with Thomson Tour Operations.”
Working Life Overseas
Sandra quickly settled into her new role overseas and was promoted to Senior Resort Supervisor. She modestly says she believes she was promoted because of her age (in her 30’s) but I believe it was largely because she has a wonderful ability to connect and communicate well with anyone she meets.
Sandra worked in many beautiful locations around the world including Saint Lucia, Malta, Tunisia, Italy, Egypt, Israel and latterly Dubai where she was responsible for setting up the Thomson Tour Operations Programme.
Sandra joined Emirates Airline in 1996. In March 1997, a Gulf Air plane aborted take-off at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Strong winds caused the aircraft to veer off course. The aircraft’s nose and wing suffered serious damage. Flight crew were hospitalised and staff suffered spinal injuries because the emergency slide was not properly secured during the emergency exit.
Gulf Air Management asked Emirates Management for assistance to help deal with the aftermath of the incident. With Sandra’s experience of PTSD and with her wide Social Work background she volunteered to be part of the emergency call centre and offered her critical incident stress management training to respond to the affected crew onboard.
Following this incident, a position of Manager for the Emergency Call Centre arose and Sandra got the job.
Sandra what did you enjoy most about your job?
“I truly enjoyed implementing my psychological training into Emirates’ Emergency Response procedures. Eventually I developed this into a Family Assistance Programme to respond to surviving passengers, the hospitalised and family members of anyone affected by an aircraft accident. I am also proud of setting up a Peer Support programme for flight and cabin crew after traumatic incidents onboard. Thankfully, Emirates has not experienced an accident to date and I proposed to use the training and cultural backgrounds and languages of our multicultural volunteer base (at one point I had over 1300 volunteers that received annual psychological first aid training provided by myself). I feel very privileged to have been in that role and thoroughly enjoyed travelling world-wide to train Outstation staff too.”
What did you like about living in Dubai?
“I liked the fact there were so many different nationalities living in one place. It felt like such a gracious place, there were separate queues for women and we were treated very respectfully. I always felt safe and there was a great respect for both gender and culture.”
How did you meet your husband John?
“I met John at a dinner party in Dubai and we hit it off straight away. I loved his easy-going nature and openness and the fact that both of us had previously been married with no children. We loved travel and this ignited us to enjoy some overseas travel before committing to marriage … and thankfully, second time lucky for both of us.”
What do you do in your spare time?
“John loves golf so I consider myself a bit of a golf widow. I keep fit by going to spin classes three times a week at Armory Gym and Aqua BootCamp in summer. I enjoy art and making cards is one of my hobbies.”
Sandra creates the most beautiful handmade cards for every occasion. I have been lucky enough to buy a few and each one is like a little piece of art.
“I love languages. I studied French and German at University and picked up a lot of Italian when I had the pleasure of working there with Thomson and of course, I enjoy learning Spanish too.”
Sandra is also a member of GALS (Gran Alacant Ladies) and Gal Pals. Two popular ladies groups who like to organise social events.
What are you grateful for?
“My Maltipoo Alfie. After many years of not being able to have a dog because of the heat in Dubai, I was so happy to have him. That is the best thing about living in GA … the lovely walks with my dog Alfie.
I am also grateful for the Spanish outdoor lifestyle and hope to visit more areas of Spain this year. GA is a wonderful sense of community and offers many opportunities to explore the surrounding areas.”
Thank you Sandra for sharing your story with us. What a rich and fulfilling life you have enjoyed!