By Yaromil Fong-Olivares
As a core leader of Standing in Our Power (SiOP) it is sometimes difficult to explain to others the how and the why of our transformational leadership work. I am often asked why we choose to deliver our model of empowerment in the form of retreats and thus limit our capacity and reach. Why not deliver our leadership training via online learning tools as many other leadership development organizations are doing?
For each retreat, we begin the selection process with an extensive application and interview process. We interview all confirmed participants to honor our participant-centered curriculum framework and set the norm of storytelling. The first activity of the retreat is a collective altar-making ritual. Altar making anchors the group in our ancestral wisdom and invites participants to approach the uniqueness of this retreat with openness. SiOP’s unique way of collective altar making often begins individual and collective trauma release and ignites the journey of individual and shared healing, with each person held within community.
As we move through to individual visioning and collective visioning we are affirmed that our model is as much dependent on individual willingness and readiness to endure the first layer of transformation, coined as “breaking down,” as it is contingent upon community readiness and community capacity to healthfully and compassionately hold an individual’s transformative journey. Therein lies the powerful role of the retreat center, the land and physical space that retreating provides. Despite painful release the community is able to hold each other and together arrive powerfully and even joyfully to the bridge between trauma and power; which we have termed individual and collective “breaking through.”
If you are wondering what this means in practice, take a moment to look at this image created from the collective visioning exercise done on day 3.
Day 3 is the first day of what we call “breaking through” and it happens after two days of sharing and releasing trauma and engaging in healing and collective self-care rituals ranging from non-traditional therapeutic activities such as dancing, secret angel gifting, tarot card readings to more traditional contemplation activities such as drawing and journaling. It is our wholehearted belief that the beauty, hope and magic inherent within this collective vision emerged from the activities and community trust building that happens during the first two days of the retreat.
Truly bringing our vision to life is where you, our supporter and accomplice, come in. We are engaging in the co-creation of an entrepreneurial business model to reach more people to continue to deepen our work. We seek to inspire lasting personal and collective healing among our program participants, ourselves, our communities and world. It is our goal to become a self-sustaining socially responsible organization with a mix of revenue streams within the next 5 years. While we work toward that goal, we invite you, our supporter to walk this path with us and help us further our theory of transformation, and vision with a generous investment.