Sandra’s 30-year journey with CPA Ryde – from client to employee

Born prematurely at 28 weeks, there was so little hope Sandra would survive, her grandma decorated a shoe box as a coffin. Her mum’s prayers to Saint Milagros (the Spanish word for Miracle) were answered, and she named Sandra Milagro as her middle name.

Sandra’s family moved to Sydney from Peru when she was 3 years old; looking for better opportunities. They were surprised by the high quality of disability services that were provided by CPA without charge which allowed Sandra to reach her full potential.

In 1993 Sandra first came into what was then The Spastic Centre in Ryde, unable to walk, talk or use her hands.

Following years of treatment from amazing therapists, she’s an independent person and lives a wonderful life, and wouldn’t change a single thing!

Three weeks ago, aged 33, she wheeled into the Ryde office again, this time – as an employee. For Sandra, coming to work at Ryde as a Customer Service Coordinator felt like coming home.

“It’s a pinch yourself moment that I’m working back home at Ryde.”

“If someone would have told me or my family 30 years ago this would be possible – to come here as an independent person to work at the place that made it happen– I am not sure we would have believed it.

I have now done a full circle and I can’t wait to see what my future pathways will be at CPA in the coming years.”


Sandra’s new role as a Customer Service Consultant at CPA Ryde is a culmination of all her previous roles in the disability sector. She brings a wealth of skills and experience including customer service, early childhood intervention, the NDIS, and how to create an NDIS plan.

The most valuable skill she brings is her lived experience. This allows her to truly empathise with parents, to communicate authentically, and understand the need for attention to detail with administration when scheduling appointments for clients.

“When a parent is upset, I understand what they’re going through. I can be a role model for others with CP, I know the challenges and how hard it can be. I live it every day.”
“Being independent is what I want for everyone. I see kids here at CPA in their splints, walkers and wheelchairs, and it makes me feel so happy. I want to say to them, ‘it’s going to be OK’. I want to tell their parents coming to terms with the diagnosis that ‘with this support your child will reach their potential’.”


Sandra looks back with fond memories at their age of going to Ryde. Therapy was always fun; she recalls how her speech therapist used to put jelly crystals around her lips to get her tongue moving; to help her speak. Sugar is without doubt the best motivator! She recalls how her therapist once said to her “You’re meant to speak, you’re meant to use your voice, to advocate.”

Her love of music is down to Michelle Cohen, the Occupational Therapist, who introduced her to music to improve mobility in her fingers. Sandra went on to become a talented piano, sax and guitar player, having performed with the Institute of Music, all because of Michelle’s care.

The whole family was involved in her therapy growing up at Ryde, which is why her parents were so emotional coming back to visit Ryde where she now works.

“Without the support of my therapists and my family’s, I don’t know if I’d have travelled, been independent, gone to Uni, got married, and been able to work. This place does wonders.”

“Ryde feels like a second home. It’s a joyous place where a lot of hard work, tantrums and cheekiness have happened!”

“CPA keeps growing and has such wonderful values. All I hear from therapists here is how they can help support the child and their family; care for the client is the priority. We are all so lucky to be a part of CPA. It’s the place that saved me.”


Sandra’s dream has always been to work with kids with disabilities. Currently studying psychology at Uni, her future career goals are either to become a child psychologist or stay at CPA in whatever role she evolves into.

“I went from being trapped in my own body to being able to walk. I feel like I was given a second chance at life. I’m meant to be here, so, I have the responsibility to grow, use my voice and show the goodness of life and what’s out there. “

This is my forever employment, I want to give as much as I can to the place that has given me so much.”