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Pedro Valdez's Employee Profile

Dominican Republic Program Manager

Pedro Valdez

How did you get involved with Rustic Pathways?

I first heard about Rustic Pathways from a friend whose friend’s brother had been Program Leader. She was always talking about what a great job he had. He was always traveling, discovering new places, meeting people from all around the world, and learning a lot about different global issues. That was everything I liked to do, and she knew it. She insisted me to apply as a Program Leader for the summer, but I did not do it because I already had plans for that summer. Next year, she reminded me about the job and encouraged me to submit the application. This time I did and I started as a Program Leader in the summer of 2018. After that summer I was offered a full-time job and started as a Program Manager in 2019.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

Certainly, the most fulfilling aspect of my job is the direct work with people. I really appreciate my time in Rustic Pathways because It is an opportunity to have firsthand experience of how people live in other environments. Going to small communities is refreshing, humbling and fascinating since you realize how diversity is everywhere, even within my own country, but also how that diversity involves shared humanity that brings us together.

What has been one of your favorite moments at Rustic Pathways?

I remember once I had a van filled with students and Program Leaders and we were on our way to community service. It had rained the day before and the muddy roads were still wet. Our very experienced driver was doing great avoiding the obstacles but there was a mud puddle from which he could not escape. There we were, puddled in the middle of a sugar cane field. I and the Programs Leaders were very concerned about how students would affront this situation. But they did not let us down. Everyone left the car, got into the mud, and helped to push the car outside the puddle. It was amazingly comforting to see how our students assumed the situation with such maturity. We felt highly proud of their example of teamwork, and humbleness. This is one of the more amazing parts of my job, when a difficult situation becomes an opportunity to learn and when a problem is a chance to articulate with each other to come up with a collective solution.

Why do you view travel as an essential part of every education?

Empathy, tolerance, and a global perspective are necessary competencies in today’s world. That is what allows us to go beyond cultural limitations and establish bridges among peoples. I think these skills are not something that can develop through books or isolating students within a school. You can understand how social factors affect people’s access to education or how culture shapes our worldviews. However, one could never comprehend what it is like to walk four kilometers every day to go to school or what it feels like to dance until you are soak in sweat every Saturday until you experience it. I think traveling is essential in every educational experience because it plays a key role in exposing people to other realities. And because it is the best way to understand others and accept them as equal and different.

What is some of your best advice for incoming participants?

Come willing to experience the newness. Being away from home, in a place you have never been before and surrounded by people you do not know can be scary. I know. I have been there. However, that is a unique opportunity to grow and learn. It is normal to be overwhelmed by all-new environments but the feeling of affronting difficult situations, building new bonds with people, and having experiences that you have never had is indescribable. Take every chance because every moment is unrepeatable.