Donna and I arrived in Quito, Ecuador late on Thursday evening.  Friday morning we flew high over the Andes to Cuenca, the country’s third largest city.  It took a few days to adjust to the altitude.  (Quito is at 9,186 feet – or 2,800meters – and Cuenca at 8,317 feet, or 2,535  meters.)  Friday and Saturday were mostly dedicated to exploring Cuenca and Sunday we had a marvelous driver (more on him in an upcoming blog) who took us into the countryside and several smaller villages and towns.

On Monday, we went to meet the staff of the Waaponi Foundation, which is sponsoring our work here.  We are honored that they have brought us to their country to share our perspective on leadership and our experience.  Waaponi’s executive director, Nena Siguenza, first met Donna and me about 5 years ago when she was earning her Master’s Degree in public affairs at the University of Washington through an international scholarship.

Nena was especially impressed with Donna’s work with public/political leaders and her book, The Politics of Hope: Renewing the Dream of Democracy.  (Quick note: The book was published in 2004 before any politician had the “audacity” to use the words “politics” and “hope” in the same sentence!”

They maintained contact and shared the vision of bringing Donna’s work – and that of the Bainbridge Leadership Center – to public leaders in Ecuador.  As a result of years of their dreaming together, we are here to present two 2-day seminars.  The first, for women only and co-facilitated by Nena, is entitled “Women as Powerful Political Partners.”  The second, which I am privileged to co-facilitate, is for a mixed audience of public leaders and is entitled “Becoming a Collaborative Political Leader.”

It is in the context of the collaboration that I am excited about presenting TED* for the first time in Latin America!  I plan to write Friday’s (or it may be Saturday) blog on that experience.

In our time with the Nena and the staff of Waaponi, it is obvious that they live from a Creator Orientation and serve their country – and all of Latin America – as Creators, Challengers and Coaches.

Founded in 1999, Waaponi’s Mission is to “promote creative leadership in sectors of education, social, political and business, with emphasis on women and youth, identifying and potentiate individual and organizational capabilities, innovative methodology that integrates the physical, emotional, mental and social.”

The word Waaponi is not Spanish in origin, but comes from the Huaorani people of Eastern Ecuador.  Instead of saying “goodbye” as they make their leave, they say “waaponi” and depart with enthusiasm and good wishes.  Waaponi means “may the joy be with you” (think “may the Force be with you” in Star Wars).

As they say on their website (which is in Spanish, but Google will translate it for you): “The foundation takes its name as a symbol of this whole adventure to discover the great human being within. We say waaponi with the hope of a safe return and that joy will be with you on the road.”

Discover the “great human being within” – the Creator in you.  Waaponi!