REFLECTIONS FROM ANA CARMINA SALAZAR PAREDES
Have you ever changed your perspective on life in less than four weeks?
It might be impossible for some people, and to be honest, it seemed impossible for me too. But I recently had the opportunity to participate in the four-week Global Leadership Program at iLEAP. And after my time here in Seattle, I can now assure you that it is possible. As long as you are willing to open your heart and have a positive mindset. My iLEAP experience has changed the way I see my life.
Something I learned the very first day of the past four weeks was that while I am a person who is always concerned about the wellbeing of others, I had forgotten about myself. I was missing something important in my life—self-awareness regarding my welfare. I’ve always believed I have a good life; I have been blessed with my family, my work, my friends, and my community at church. But I came to realize I was not complete, despite all that, I somehow still felt empty. These four weeks have helped me learn more about myself and acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses. I’m now able to not only better identify things that bother me, but also how to deal with them. This will certainly help me with work, but can also be carried out in my everyday living.
Being part of an organization like Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) requires me to have certain skills as a leader that I wasn’t aware I had before, like being more confident in the way that I lead and being more empathetic. However, now I am certain that there are many abilities in me that I can put into practice in my work. I’m now more aware of the ways they can be used to more positively contribute to the organization. I love what I do because I get to work with children at NPH- and it was thanks to NPH that I had the opportunity to participate in this amazing program.
At iLEAP, I met eight people whom each taught me something different—each of them have so much potential and I admire them a lot. I was greeted every morning with a smile and a hug by the staff, which made a huge difference in how comfortable I felt in the space. It became much easier to open my heart to the whole group. I learned that it is okay to make mistakes and that it doesn’t matter how bad some experience has been, there will always be something to learn from it.
Most importantly, I learned that I am a leader. When I first heard about iLEAP’s program, I admittedly thought to myself, “I am not a leader—this program is not for me.” But through my time at iLEAP, I realized that being a leader is more than standing in front of a group of people and guiding them through work. Being a leader is about being part of a community, and working hard to carry out the vision of the entire group.
I’ll admit that talking about the vision made me feel stressed, since I felt frustrated when I realized I didn’t have a clear vision for my own life. Am I living my life with no point? But gradually, my life’s vision is becoming clearer to me, thanks to the support of the staff who were always there to guide me in this adventure of discovering who I am.
The iLEAP experience has played a very important role in my life. Thanks to iLEAP, I got to meet many wonderful people—like my homestay family, Jane, Duncan, Dylan, and Kelvin, who opened not only their homes to me, but also their hearts. I am very thankful for this opportunity. Living this experience has shaped my thinking—I have learned to know myself better and have a clearer vision of my life. It is quite impressive to reflect that four weeks were enough to do all this, but I am being honest when I say that my experience at iLEAP has changed my life.