When I was 10 years old my family moved from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. During my early years in the DR, my family saw a lot of people struggling in extreme poverty. However, living in Puerto Rico from age 10 until I was 16 was better, because we had a bigger home and food. That was all I knew until I decide to move to the United States to attend college without knowing a word of English.
I had the culture shock of my life getting off the airplane in Iowa. What did I see? Cornfields – everywhere! I thought I was going to be moving to the most beautiful city in the world. I’d seen pictures of New York City skyscrapers and city lights – and that’s what I was expecting. However, what I got was much different. The acculturation process was also a challenge. Some students that came from farm families – can you believe that many had never seen a black person before? And many did not know how to act around immigrants. As a Latino, I am very proud of my heritage. Most importantly, I will always be grateful to those who mentored and educated me during those critical years.
After I graduated I became an American citizen and decided to thank my new country by serving in the US NAVY-R as a Naval officer. At the same time, I worked my way up the corporate ladder and experienced financial success well beyond my dreams as a small boy or the teenager learning English in Iowa. Then I woke up one day in the late 1990s – it was my “aha” moment that changed me from the inside. I was on a mission trip – experiencing (from the other side) what it was like to help others. And with no disrespect to the organizers—the trip was a total failure. Unbeknown to us, we were not helping people, we were only helping ourselves feel better – oblivious to the unintended consequences of our actions. Those that planned the trip had great intentions but sometime good intentions hurt. I felt sick. I knew it could be done better, but only if the entire approach shifted. Short-term mission or work of social justice has a purpose, but the same actions are rarely effective long-term. I knew helping people could be done in a way that was inclusive and sustainable. Now it was my time to give back. I was ready for all the changes that it could bring because the rewards went far deeper than anything money could buy.
Leadership identification and development is at the heart of ImpactLives’ efforts. Why? Because learning about yourself, about others, understanding your intrinsic motivation – and then using that knowledge to lead and influence - this is an education that you will never forget after class is dismissed. It cannot be turned off or undone. Accompany that knowledge with works of social justice and critical reflection – and it seems incredibly silly and even absurd to take actions that are only transactional and serve only to feed the egos of those who paid money for a “make me feel good experience.” The theories and actions behind this are the heart and soul behind my doctoral work in Global Contextual Leadership. Everything in my life, including my experience as a small boy who wondered about poverty and where his next meal would come from – paved the way for a new level of insight and motivation for me to create transformational change. As Albert Einstein said, “Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.” That’s how ImpactLives was born.
Life is meant to be experienced with one’s open mind, open heart and intelligence of the will. Are you ready? Welcome to the journey!