Find your own style of leadership to change the world

By Elodie Malbois

08/02/2021
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

Featured Story
Off

related stories

Maria del Pilar, credit: Maria del Pilar

Maria’s battle to end suicide in Manizales

Two years ago, Maria del Pilar went out dancing with one of her friends, Laura, who was ‘the funniest person’ she knew. Two weeks later, Laura committed suicide. Maria couldn’t understand how such a y...

All I could think was ‘Am I safe?’

'I wish the world had more safe spaces for women and for men, to work together to build safe communities', says Temantungwa Ndlangamandla in her article about gender and safety and explains how her cu...

Men, Paula Mariane 2019.jpg

A conversation between men around gender and safety

How can we all contribute to building a sense of safety for everyone within our communities? The CPLP Talks team convened a dialogue space where they asked men for their perspective on the topic of ge...

CPLP Tino

Getting comfortable under my skin

'I now look at myself in the mirror differently. I am slowly getting comfortable under my skin.' - Tinotenda Dean Nyota from Gweru, Zimbabwe, took part in the CPLP in 2018. He is an Economics graduat...

CPLP Charlotte Rémié

The best of both cultures

'I realized that having two cultures is not a burden but a richness and that I am lucky to be able to take the best of both.' - Charlotte Rémié discovered Initiatives of Change through her parents in ...

Abeda Nasrat CPLP

‘Afghanistan gave me roots, Denmark gave me wings’

Abeda Nasrat came to Denmark as a refugee from Afghanistan at the age of two. She now studies Law at the University of Copenhagen and works as a student assistant at the Danish Institute for Human Ri...

Sebastian Hasse CPLP

Culture, origins and freedom

"Time and again, encounters with people who have different cultural roots from me have challenged and often overwhelmed me. But it is these encounters that have allowed me to keep growing, both in my ...

Harshani Bathwadana Sri Lanka

The courage to offer hope

Harshani Bathwadana from Sri Lanka describes how she found the hope to bring hope through education to thousands of girls. ...

Redempta CPLP Talks 1

Freeing girls to study

"One act of compassion continues to have a great impact on my life." - Redempta Muibu from Nakuru, Kenya, describes how taking part in the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme in 2015 inspired her to s...

Sara Taleb

Lebanon deserves better

On 4 August 2020, the world was shocked to learn of the explosion which had torn through Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, claiming lives and property. Messages of love were sent to the people of Lebano...

Antoine Chelala

Beyond the Rubble: the unseen impact of the Beirut explosion

This new series of articles and interviews will start with our friends in Beirut, who have shown immense courage and strength following the devastating events of 4 August 2020. When a home is a crime ...

CL 2020 piano at the opening

Creative Leadership – Together for Change

The Creative Leadership conference took participants on a six-day journey of personal inquiry to discover what creative leadership is and what kind of leaders they are. More than 120 passionate change...

Mandela Mile image logo

From Caux to the Mandela Mile

18 July was the birthday of Nelson Mandela and this year marked the end of the first Mandela Mile Leadership Programme (MMLP). This 14-week programme had 36 participants from 21 countries. Some of the...

Daniel Clements

From personal change to conference leadership: Daniel Clements

Daniel Clements, the coordinator for this year’s Creative Leadership conference, would not have become involved with Initiatives of Change Switzerand without his father, who recommended that he attend...