Empowering girls and women in Medellin – Podcast with Integral Women

Listen to the podcast here or keep reading for the transcription.

Sierra: Welcome back to integral woman podcasting. My name is Sierra Melcher, I’m your host. Where we explore women’s voices from around the world,l share insight and wisdom in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. 

Today we are joined by two women who are co creating a project in medellin colombia called project florecer. It’s a movement that focuses on empowering young girls and women, helping them to discover their potential, their own voice and their ability to be role models in their community. 

Erin, Sheridan, thank you so much for being here. 

Erin: Thanks so much for having us. 

Sierra: My pleasure

Sierra: Um, so, Erin first of all I want to start with you, this project is your baby. Tell us about the name Proyecto Florecer what does it mean and why did you choose it for this project? 

Erin:  So about a year ago I was home for christmas. During december I think everyone starts reflecting on what you want for the upcoming year, what they want their life to be like, what they want to manifest. I really was feeling the need to do something different in my life and create change. I had been working in a  school for the last 2 years. I had recently quit my job and made the decision to start the project, working independently. 

The name florecer came because it was always a word I resonated with. The word florecer in english translates to bloom or to flourish. Especially for the project I thought it was something really perfect, in just hte way it encompases growth, and potential and recognising one’s own capacity to be in control of your life. 

I came up with the name before the project, I knew it would be florecer and that’s how it was. 

Sierra: Sheridan, you’ve joined the florecer, it was her vision, she reached out and you joined her. How does Proyecto Florecer offer what it offers> how do you support young women in empowering them to become role models? 

Sheridan: Yeah, so we began with a base of a leadership curriculum that was developed and then we went out and we did a couple of months of market research to find out what it is that the community is missing, what does it lack, what is its biggest problem? And from that we developed a series of 4 workshops, they can be done individually but they are really designed to be done continuously one after the other. It is really about defining identifying who i am, what is my identity, what am i good at, what do i love, what is my passion, how can i bring it out in the the world, how can i communicate? What are the right ways to communicate these things and who am I as a leader?  What is a leader? What kind of qualities of a leader do I have using all of that knowledge, how can i put that into my day to day life, how can i bring it unto the world and create something that will give back to me and then influence my community and me, to be a leader in my community? 

Sierra: I love it. So for each of you, this is bringing you something personally as well as career wise and so one. I love that you are both here because before our chat before we started recording each of us what identifying with this concept of reframing our identity. Your project is offering these questions and a supportive curriculum to young girls to explore who am I and what is my role in the world? But it’s so interesting how in the development of that each of you has asked yourself these same questions and I was sharing with you, this is a new podcast, just the other day I got out of my car and I said oh my gosh, I’m a podcaster. So my identity has shifted based on a role that I have tasted on and a project that I am working on. How has this project shown you who you are as a leader or as an entrepreneur? How has this project and this work reframed you and your identity? 

Erin: Yeah, well something that I have been working personally is not trying to fit myself into a box of I am an Oregonian or I am American or I am a teacher, but yeah, I’ve always identified myself as an English teacher, especially being in Colombia, I’ve always taught English, whether it’s in a public school or private school or online, I’ve always had that sort of identity since I’ve lived in Medellin and just now as we were talking I was like, Oh my God, I’m an entrepreneur. This is what this means. It’s been pretty much to the year since I’ve worked with someone else’s schedule on someone else’s time and I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Of course there have been struggles and doubt and questions that have come up, but I really love this whole process and the way I’ve also started to think of myself as an entrepreneur and seeing myself as being able to do something different and still within the realm of education because I do identify so much of my passion as teaching and working with kids and working with women but I think that can look a lot of different ways.  It doesn’t have to be in a classroom. It can be creating a program, so…here we are. 

Sierra: I love it. That’s amazing because in the work that I doI often start with women about their roles. Who are we? What are the roles we take on and the identities that we overlay on top of that? And shifting that is really scary, whether it’s just changing your identity conceptually, but you changed your identity financially. Ya know, literally, it was exactly a year ago, we’re talking 365 days ago you ended your formal professional work in that capacity and you took a massive leap, and it’s scary. The shifting of identity can be totally terrifying.  On the other hand, it was only 365 days ago that you had an idea and now that idea is so much more than an idea. And I think that at the beginning of a project, when we have that idea, the end feels so far away. And here you are, still beginning, but in a totally different realm. And I think that’s so empowering and amazing – of a conceptual shift becoming a tangible shift. Sheridan, similar kind of question. How did you get involved and what has this work taught you about your identity, yourself as a leader and anything else?

Sheridan: I got involved maybe 6 months ago. Erin and I had kind of talked about it very briefly but it had never fit. I had been looking for a project that works with women’s rights, women’s equality and women’s empowerment for years, but I never really found the right one. It never really fit in perfectly. I was working in finance. I was not particularly happy and this came up and it was just a no brainer. It fit in in every single way and it is really cool because, like what you say, we are giving these workshops to make people say, hey you are a leader and now all of a sudden my identity has completely changed to be a leader and entrepreneur and a million other things. Because obviously being an entrepreneur means you do a little bit of everything. Like, it’s insane and. 

Erin: You wear many hats. 

Sheridan: You wear many hats! It’s fun.  It’s cool to be putting out something at the same time that you are going on a very similar journey and being able to take that journey to fuel the work that your doing within a community. I think I forgot the question. 

Sierra: I think you did great. 

Sheridan: Good. good. 

Sierra: Before we wrap up, because this podcast focuses on inspiration, insight and wisdom: 

If there were one nugget, one idea that you could plant in the minds of the listeners, about leadership, about identity, about following a passion, could you take a moment and just think about it and offer our listeners something? Erin, what do you got for us? 

Erin: I think what first came to my mind is that nothing is as good if you are doing it by yourself, so really reaching out and asking for help and realizing as a single person you can’t do everything alone. We had talked about this earlier, how this project was my idea and I’ve really opened it up to the world to be a co-creation,a co-collaborative process, and like Sheridan said, we wear so many hats and I definitely recognize my faults and what my lack of knowledge and experience is. And what I lack, maybe my partner has or someone else has and I think being open to working together and collaborating, especially in leadership. Working with others is huge, so that’s something that I’ve really come away with.

Sierra: Well, yea and acknowledging your weaknesses but really your strengths.  What am I really good at? What can I not bother myself with? And have somebody who’s good at that so that I can be good at what I’m good at so that I don’t get drained doing the stuff that I don’t know how, that I struggle with, that I hate, yadda yadda. Erin, yea?

Erin: And something else that I’ve realized since you did say that this has been 365 days of pretty much creation is that there is so much behind the scenes work that people do not see and when you’re not working in that 9 to 5 job and maybe you’re working at a cafe or your working independently. Maybe you spend most of the day at home or you go to the gym when you want to. Or you know, you just enjoy those daily sort of life happenings that aren’t possible when you are working a full time job.  A lot of people may be open to criticism: oh but what are you really doing? But there’s so much that goes into building a project that’s behind the scenes and this really has been the creation period and now we are starting to color in the coloring pages of the book, which has been so so cool.

Sierra: I love that you brought that up for 2 reasons. The metaphors. Yea, I’m always finding metaphors.  Any creation takes time and ya know, think of a pregnancy. You’ve been pregnant for most of a year and you are about to birth this project into the world, and like with a pregnancy, you can’t do it by yourself. Right, it takes more than one person and it takes time and it doesn’t look like much is happening until you look back. Sheridan, you said all of a sudden, I’m a leader. You think that it happened all of a sudden, but the project didn’t happen all of a sudden, your leadership didn’t happen all of a sudden. But when we look back, we’re like, oh, I’m catching up with myself. I have been changing and growing slowly over time and now, I’m updating my identity.  Sheridan, if you were to leave an idea or a thought, even a question, what do you want to offer us? 

Sheridan: I love that you said updating my identity.  That’s really cool. I’m gonna leave myself with the question of, what is your identity and how much does that change but what is kind of the nonchanging. I don’t know where I’m going with that but I know that it’s something, that it’s the nugget that I’m gonna take away. But the nugget I think everyone should always take away is that whenever something is scary, just do it, because that is where all the juicy growth happens. You know, the right scary where you’re like oh my God, I don’t know if I can do this! Just trust that you’re gonna figure it out and jump in 100 percent. And ask for help. 

Sierra: Fantastic.  Thank you both so much. First of all, for the work that you’ve been doing. And thank you for sharing it with us and letting us know about it. Please follow this podcast. Leave us a review and you can also send us a voice message. Ask questions of these 2 entrepreneurs and leaders. Send us a message. Ask a question. Give us some feedback or tell us what you did with these insights and this nugget and these questions. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you again for listening to the Integral Women Podcast. I’m Sierra Melcher and I’ll see you again next time. 

Thank you to Integral Women for featuring Proyecto Florecer. You can find out more about Sierra’s work at on her Facebook or website.

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