Letters from the Field Phase is an opportunity for the 2015-17 Sauvé Fellows to share their takeaways from the residential phase of the Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program and showcase their applicability in the field.
Here is Rolando Jr. Villamero‘s story:
It’s been two months since I moved to Kenya. How time flies! It’s been an interesting journey so far being in this beautiful part of the world.
So what am I doing in Kenya in the next 1-2 years? I’m here working as an ‘Expert on Mission on Inclusive Education’ at an international organization. My mandate focuses on working closely with the Ministry of Education on how to promote inclusive education: enabling children with disabilities to learn alongside their peers without disabilities in regular classrooms. I am very new to both the community and workplace, which means I do a lot of observation, reflection, and learning.
During the residential phase of the Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program (JSPLP), I learned the value of being vulnerable as a person. Vulnerability, in this context, means recognizing one’s weakness and limitations. I was raised in a very competitive environment. I had to excel all the time; I had to be the best; I had to be strong, and – to a certain extent – I had to pretend that all was well even if it wasn’t.
However, living with 11 other young people from nine countries around the world during the residential phase of the JSPLP taught me the importance of being vulnerable. The safe and reflective spaces of the experience provided me with an opportunity to be more cognizant of and more open about my weaknesses and limitations as a leader and as a person. This was concretely manifested when we Sauvé Fellows ventured into doing a collective project on refugee integration. Recognizing that this was not my field of expertise and that I needed to learn more about the issue before I could contribute was a sign of vulnerability.
As a newcomer to this international organization I now work for, I need to learn a lot of things, including the organization’s processes and dynamics and, more importantly, the overall plight of children with disabilities in Kenya in relation to the organization’s existing programs. I must admit that the process of reading, learning, and understanding the working dynamics has been overwhelming. There have been moments when even retaining information and focus has been difficult.
At first, it was not an easy move for me to share my struggles with my work colleagues, especially since I felt I was too new to the organization to show my limitations. But the need to be authentic and vulnerable in my situation was strong. This led me to have individual conversations with some of my colleagues. I expressed my struggles and my needs to them. And in return, they helped me reflect on how to effectively deal with them based on their experiences. One of them expressed, “Everything you are feeling now, Rolando is normal for a newcomer like you. But I really appreciate how open and authentic you are with your needs and challenges. It is very helpful moving forward.”
Now I keep on observing, learning, and reflecting. And I’m feeling much better because some of my colleagues have provided a safe space for me to show my authenticity and vulnerability. I’ve learned that there’s no harm of being vulnerable as a leader and as a person. It is even a strength, a skill, a gift that one must nurture. Humans as we are, perfection is never a part of our existence.
I am grateful for the Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program for the opportunities it has given me to learn to be vulnerable and to value the importance of vulnerability. They have prepared me to face similar challenges throughout my professional life.