Written"Belonging"LearningParticipation"

IMG 4910- Written by Lauren Hislop. Lauren is a social researcher with three university degrees. She has a strong passion for social justice. She has cerebral palsy however she doesn't let it define her. She says, "My life is a tapestry of many colours. I believe we should embrace our diversity."

I’ve recently graduated from a leadership course which has given me time to reflect. When I was given my certificate I almost felt as proud as when I was awarded my university degrees. During the time of our course I fell ill. The illness lasted for months. I was in severe pain. However, I remained in the course. This illustrates the importance the course had on my life.

One of the most impactful aspects of the course were the other participants. I felt I was in the presence of greatness. The people in the course had a multitude of talents. I learnt the power of camaraderie. The people in my group were concerned with each others well being. There was a feeling of solidarity amongst us. Whilst we all had diverse experiences and held different world views, we knew what it was like to be different. We could share stories. We all would nod when we heard each other speak. The participants were vibrant, I was in awe.

Another positive thing that I took away from the course was the information. At the start of the course we were provided with a guide. The guide contained reading material such as attributes of leadership and stories of leadership. This guide proved to be an excellent resource during the course and even better, it will provide guidance in the future.

During the course we were connected with mentors. This made an incredible difference in how I navigated the course. My mentor was an outstanding ally. She helped me to navigate the somewhat murky waters of conducting a group project.

Libby and Nick, our noble leaders, guided us gently through sometimes turbulent seas. I never once felt as though either of them were coercing us to do something, which is pretty rare. They would always ‘check in’ with us and ask us individually how we were going. I found this to be extremely considerate. I always felt they were genuinely concerned with our welfare. Libby and Nick were our rocks during the process.

One of the challenges of the course was being ignorant of other leaders disabilities.. Many of us have had IMG 4932disabilities our entire lives; however we weren’t aware of people who had different disabilities to our own. Having a physical disability I have a minimal knowledge of people who are deaf, for instance. As I have a speech impairment, I had to learn how to deal with other people’s frustration with my speech. Also, due to having slurred speech, I dislike talking to people on the phone that I don’t know very well. As a result I prefer to use email. But I ran into an unexpected problem with this. I was responsible for scheduling our group meetings, which I did via email for the reasons above. This resulted in a group member being excluded unintentionally because he didn’t have internet access. I was shocked to learn that I had excluded another group member as I always try to be inclusive. This example highlights the need for those with disabilities to acquire more knowledge of other types of disabilities. We all try to teach people in the general community about those with disabilities but it’s also time that people with disabilities learn from each other.

The course has given me a good foundation to exercise leadership in the future. It has empowered me to venture into my community and know I can make a difference to my community. I’m filled with confidence. The leadership course has made a positive imprint on my life and I would encourage anybody to consider leadership more heavily in their lives.