Sandra Rubins – How to Make a Difference

Author Pru Allison
Date June 13, 2024

Here at Natural Selection our mission is to Make a Difference, and one of the driving forces of this mission is our Community Liaison Manager Sandra Rubins who devotes her days to community outreach.

Sandra hails from a village in Botswana’s Kwenang district called Molepolole which is around 50 kilometres from Gaborone. She’s worked in the tourism industry for the past 17 years working her way through roles such as management, reservations, logistics, operations, procurement and community outreach. In 2018 she arrived in the Okavango Delta’s Khwai Private Reserve (KPR), initially as a camp relief general manager then warehouse manager. A tragic turn of events led to Sandra assuming the role of Community Liaison Manager. Her dear friend Maria Ramsden held the position within the reserve and when we sadly lost Maria to illness her comrade Sandra stepped up to continue her wonderful work, extending it to cover the whole country. You might recognise Maria’s name as we renamed the preschool in Khwai in her honour and it’s now known as The Maria Ramsden Learning Centre.

“I started with KPR as a camp relief general manager then moved to the office where I was appointed Warehouse Manager,” she recalls. “When Maria sadly passed away I took over her role of Community Liaison Manager for Khwai. Moving up to Community Outreach Manager for Natural Selection Botswana and covering more ground is such an honour and a privilege. I get to work with different communities and learn about their different cultures and the challenges they face”.

Sandra herself resides in the safari town of Maun along with her family. She has three children: 21 year old Asante, 15 year old Nicole and 5 year old Raymond. However, she plays a key role in the lives of many more people beyond her own kin.

Her job is far reaching and involves establishing community needs in each of the areas where we operate as well as proposing new projects or ways of improving existing projects and then implementing such ideas. It’s also Sandra’s role to liaise with other organisations to ensure that goals are aligned and there aren’t any overlaps. This would undoubtedly keep even the most energetic individual busy, particularly in the Botswana heat, but Sandra is also responsible for fundraising for community projects and assisting in Human Relations when employing from the local villages.

“On my average day of work I start off by checking my email,” she tells us. “This way I can reply to colleagues and potential donors and get everything organised at the start of the day. I then look over my to-do list and get started on the projects that have my top priority. I schedule most of my meetings for the afternoons.”

Sandra is even more wrapped up with work than usual at the moment, as she’s been hard at work setting up the new preschool which we established as we opened our new camp Tawana in the Okavango Delta.

“I’m currently busy with opening our preschool The Learning Tree in Shorobe,” she nods. “I’ve been getting the school registered, arranging for the premises to be inspected for the issuing of the licence, assisting in the recruiting of staff and purchasing what we need for the school, from furniture to stationary.”

It’s not only the projects Sandra works on that change, the people do too, which can pose its own challenges.                                 

“I work a lot with Village Development Committees in all the villages, and Community Trusts in some villages,” she notes. “The biggest challenge is that the board members change every three years. This means that sometimes plans must change because the new board does not approve some suggested projects. I usually don’t give up, especially if I know it’s something that’s going to benefit the community in a big way. Patience is a virtue”.

“The best part of my job is seeing our projects taking off and how they change people’s lives – seeing them benefitting and bettering lives.”

Sandra is certainly not one to rest on her laurels and despite all she’s already achieved, she already has her sights set beyond The Learning Tree’s classroom, towards her next projects.

“I would like to focus on our Mmogo Centres for Community Development,” she says. “I would love to see the Craft Centre in Moreomaoto up and running before the end of this peak season. I would also like to extend support to the preschools and playgroups up in the panhandle.”

Despite being extremely busy, Sandra does find time to unwind as well.

“I like TikTok,” she smiles. “I take lots of pictures to create content when I visit the lodges and communities. I love sharing my work and the places that I visit as I believe it creates awareness and inspires the people that follow me”.

Whether online or in the field, there’s no doubt that Sandra is at the fore of our community, making a real difference in the lives of those around her.

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