Thursday, February 19, 2009

Valentina - My Hero and Winner of Thel Prize for Best Public Servant

There is a really incredible public servant named Valentina. She is the director of the Extranjeria Office, formerly in Chaiten, now in Futaleufu. She speaks no English (or at least doesn't give hint of it), but has helped us file our paperwork for our one-year visas, and now our application for permanent visas. Her home in Chaiten is near the river threatening homes in the town, but spared with the exception of an incredible amount of ash. Nevertheless, some things were salvageable. Today we had to go sign some final papers before she was to make the trip to Chaiten to work on retrieving furniture and other things from her house. Needless to say, she won't be making that trip right now. Two hours after the newest surge in the volcano today, instead of shutting up her office, or shunning her work, she called to make sure we would be coming in to sign the documents she had prepared. She also passed us some new masks and goggles from one of the many boxes lining the walls of her office as she dashed from office to office answering phones. Two of her colleagues were in Chaiten this week to recover items from their homes and repair windows and doors.

I find it absolutely amazing, that in the face of losing almost everything, that a civil servant, having lived out of boxes, between Chaiten, Puerto Montt, and Futa for the past ten months, Valentina remains dedicated to her work. She is by far, the most dedicated public servant I have encountered in four countries, including the US, Costa Rica, Panama and Chile.

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