Sandra VanderVen, Member-at-Large
Sandra VanderVen’s decade of experience as a community organizer started with volunteering to be Seattle’s MoveOn Council Coordinator, after a year of which, she was catapulted to Regional Organizer. She describes her life’s work as “transforming the world through relationships,” and explains that it’s important to demonstrate that “leadership is an act of service and vision. We must work with the reality we are presented with, but care enough to show the way to a better future.”
She seems nearly destined for her eventual work as an organizer for SEIU1100NW. She spent her early professional years as a middle school science teacher working to close the achievement gap, by prioritizing the adaptation of science curriculum to meet the needs of her minority students. Her passion for engaging and collaborating with underrepresented communities earned her the 2013 Voice of the Community Award from KSER FM for Community Impact by an Individual.
After a stint as a real estate agent, she found her way Fuse Washington where she was a Senior Organizer, dedicating herself to helping prepare constituents to meet with their elected officials, as well as training and supervising fellows, interns, and volunteers. After less than a year on their Board of Directors, she became the board president of the Backbone Campaign, known for their “artful activism.” That experience certainly primed her to serve on the inside team that recently led the three-day Swedish strike that fought for improved working conditions for Seattle healthcare workers.
She has built a career around the power of information as a tool for capacity building and the necessity for empowering the average person to fight for their rights. A chance encounter many years ago with Sherwin Nuland’s book “How We Die” gave her an appreciation for the ways in which “death is a transition, and like other transitions” requires us to organize our own small community of “loved ones and family [because they] need to be involved and supportive.”