Leadership Development Program Goes to Lima

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What makes a good leader? Here at GSW this is a question we are daily confronted with as we train and mentor our students to become positive contributors in their communities. Last years Program Managers selected a few gifted young girls to hold leadership roles within our organization’s first ever Leadership Development training Program.

One of these girls is Paula Daniela Calsina. She attended Los Nogales through 6th grade and is now in secondary school. She has come to several classes and acted as a student teacher for her younger peers, as well as a teacher’s aid to Kat and me. On her own initiative, Kat and I have seen Paula grow from a shy girl who led when told what to do to a proactive and confident mentor who vocally encourages or instructs her younger peers.

Paula after getting her first pair of running shoes

Paula after getting her first pair of running shoes

Last December, we presented a crazy idea to her: did she want to train to run 10 km in the spring on behalf of GSW in Lima’s Marathon race series?


Why was this idea crazy? It was crazy because Paula never had the opportunity to train for an athletic goal before. She lives 10 minutes from the airport and yet has never set foot on a plane. She had only left Cusco once in her 14 years of life. No other young girls in her neighborhood have ever trained for such an event. Paula accepted our challenge, and we set to work raising the money to buy her plane tickets, entrance fee, and Lima food and transportation costs. 


In March, after returning from summer vacation, the three of us set to work on our race day training plans. Paula would represent GSW in the 10 km, Kat in the 21 km, and I in the 42 km. Because Paula had never trained before, it was essential that we guide her in the process. We trained with her several times before the race and to go over how her personal running schedule was going. Through the eight weeks before race day, Paula’s training morphed from a personal endeavor into community one. Younger girls fromGSW would ask to come and watch her train and even tried running a few sprints along with her. Paula’s mom began waking up at 5:30 a.m. with her to train several times a week, and her siblings took part in encouraging her to stay on track.

As race day approached, the nerves increased, but Paula remained composed and focused like any good leader and athlete. She came to Los Nogales a week before heading to Lima and challenged the girls, explaining that an opportunity like this one day could happen for them if they remained committed and had goals. It was a powerful and special moment for GSW, and the legacy we are all beginning to glimpse in the changed lives of Cusqueña girls.


On May 16th, Kat, Paula, Paula’s mom and I all took off to Lima. For both Paula and her mom this was an exhausting and new cultural experience. They could not stop commenting on how much traffic there was and how pretty the beach was. Thanks to many friends in Lima, Paula and her mom were completely taken care of in regards to hospitality and food.


On Sunday morning, May 18th, the race was finally upon us. Everyone was nervous. Kat and I started our runs at 7:00 a.m. while Paula did not run until 8:00 a.m. A good friend who ran with Paula told us Paula experienced a lot of pre-race nerves and, at the sound of the starting gun, took off sprinting. She was soon overcome by exhaustion, but with the help of this friend, together they crossed the finish line after a solid 1:05:32 of running! She did such a great job!


It is difficult to measure the impact we have in the lives of our students. How did today’s lesson change their perspective on their confidence? How did this field trip open up their world view? How did this sports class teach them what it means to work hard?


With each returning smile, weekly hug, and consistent student, however, we are shown examples of lives that are impacted. And then there is Paula, a young girl, who with a little prodding from Program Managers is blossoming into a young leader who has the potential to change the direction of her future and the futures of her peers.

— Kaitlyn Le Baudour

[Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Kat and Kaitlyn, too! They represented GSW well, finishing in speedy times of just over 2 hours (Kat) and 4:28:05 (Kaitlyn).]