Written by Sam Cook. Business Chicks Leadership Immersion Program Animator, Mexico, 2015.
It was a bright, sunny day. I was standing in the lush gardens at the Australian Embassy in Mexico City. I was a long way from home, and WAY out of my comfort zone.
Here I was, speaking in front of a crowd of dignitaries, representatives from the UN, Women’s Rights organisations, and The Hunger Project employees. Along with my fellow ‘trippers’, who I’d met only days before.
They were all listening attentively to my story. It was one of the proudest moments of my life so far.
How did I get there, and what did I have to share?
When I first found out about The Hunger Project, what struck me most about their work was that, although they facilitate change, it is the people living in hunger themselves that are the ones building on their leadership skills to firstly create their vision, then do the work needed to make their vision become a reality.
I could relate to this. As someone who had recently been faced with some big life challenges, I was ready to set myself a lofty goal and unlock my full potential.
Soon after, I found myself in the beautiful mountain village of Genova, more than ten hours travel from Mexico City, on a Leadership Immersion Program. What I found there were many examples of how when people are empowered, they can make significant changes in both their lives and the lives of others.
As part of our time in the village, we were privileged to attend a community meeting. Here, representatives from four different villages shared their visions for their communities.
When each village planned out their vision, they had key projects that they wanted to work on. All of the examples involved local people learning new skills, that they’d then pass along to others. This gave them a sense of purpose and pride in what they could accomplish, a strong sense of community, and skills that would continue being useful in their communities. It also helped the local people understand how they could all work together as a team and turn their vision into reality.
The Hunger Project had worked hard to give the women of these villages a voice. We were told of the challenges of changing belief systems, with the result that many of the men had come to realise that if everyone (including women and youth) were on board, that their vision could be reached sooner.
Standing in front of the crowd at the Embassy, I shared the lesson that when an individual’s leadership is developed, their confidence has a chance to shine through and they become empowered. When people join together with others they can have a huge impact.
I saw this in myself and many others during my time in Mexico, and these are lessons I’ve kept with me since.
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