Find your own style of leadership to change the world

By Elodie Malbois

CL Maria Romero Project Colombia hut


Taking part in the former Caux Interns Programme in 2016 inspired Maria Paula Garcia Romero from Colombia to set up a library in a remote community in Colombia. Elodie Malbois finds out what the experience taught her about leadership. 

‘Before I came to Caux, I used to think that my life was normal and that it was fine,’ says Maria Paula Garcia Romero, from Bogota, Colombia. ‘Caux broke the monotony. I realized that I could get engaged and make a difference in the world.’ 

When she returned home, she knew she wanted to do something. Slowly, the idea emerged of building a library in La Guajira, an isolated community in the north of Colombia, to make education more accessible to its people. She applied what she had learnt at Caux about creative leadership, which is not about having power over others but about connecting with people, respecting them and their ideas, and using their strengths. She co-created the project with the local community, thereby ensuring that their values and culture were respected and that they would be able to run the project autonomously. She also involved her friends and family.  


CL Maria Romero Project Colombia hut inside


There are now about 35 people helping with the project. They all have their strength and therefore their specific responsibility. Before the project started more than 60% of the children were illiterate. Three years later, all the children of the community can now read and write, both in Spanish and in their own language, Wayuunaiki. The project has created a series of books with stories written and edited by the children in both languages. The magic of these stories is that they transmit the children’s culture and change their way of looking at life. Maria hopes to replicate the project in other communities.  

If you copy someone else’s model of leadership, it’s not going to work. You have to find the one that suits you and the situation.

If you would like to start making a difference too, Maria says the first step is to identify what a community most needs. This will give you your aim. Then you need to develop a realistic plan: What do you want to do? How will you involve the community? How will you get the resources to carry out the project? For that, you will need support. Find people who have strengths that you don’t have and co-create the project with them and the community. She explains: ‘Don’t be afraid to create a project. Imagine these projects as bridges of opportunities so that the people you impact will become changemakers themselves.

Most importantly, you need to create your own model of leadership. ‘We are all different. If you copy someone else’s model of leadership, it’s not going to work. You have to find the one that suits you and the situation. You have to centre it on your qualities.’ Finally, she says, ‘be consistent in your work and keep your commitments’. 




Photos: Maria Paula Garcia Romero

Video: Biblioteca Suuralairua - Comunidad Wayuú

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