Today, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet with many local leaders of the wonderful community of Raglan. Representatives from Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Bag It, Karioi Maunga ki te Moana, and KASM (Kiwi’s Against Sea Mining) selflessly shared their experiences and their hearts in order to inspire and educate us. These were people who had taken issues with the way that certain things were done within the town and stood up as the voices of change. They have made incredible change, and today we had the privilege of learning from them. There were three things that really stood out to me that were echoed in all four of the presentations; find your team, stay connected, and stand in your love.
June was the first woman to present to us about Plastic Bag Free Raglan. She and a few others had seen the problem of plastic bags in the community and the sea and began to do research; they found many astonishing things, including the fact that the toxins from plastic eventually made its way back into the food that we eat every day. She wanted to do something to secure the future for her children, and she has taken so many steps towards this goal. Since the beginning of the project, she and her teammates have reduced the plastic bag usage in Raglan by 95% and 84% of local business now do not use plastic bags. She broke down how she made this happen in detail, and all of it was very interesting and informative, but the most influential thing she told us one of her major takeaways; find your team. She shared how sometimes the problem and resistance that they were and still are facing sometimes get her down. However, her team was there to lift her up and re-inspire her. This mentality is so important, especially to me as I get to a place in which I am starting to build my life. Finding a team that will fight my fight with me just as I stand beside them is both empowering and uplifting. I truly do not believe that one can stand alone and reach their full potential. As leaders, we need to be intentional about finding our team so that we can all support and grow together.
As the next two groups presented (Bag It Raglan and Karioi Maunga ki te Moana), they each referenced each other. Although there were very different goals of each project, they seemed to be part of the same group – and in a way, they were. They were all fighting for a better future and for the health of their home. Perhaps this closeness is easier to achieve in a place of around 4,000 citizens. However, I choose to believe that these leaders were supporting each other intentionally because they knew that not one of them could make it alone. Personally, this hit me very hard. I know that I sometimes I start thinking of all the challenges that we face in our world today, and I get so caught up in all of it that I feel paralyzed. It’s overwhelming. However, the leaders that we met today were intent on making small changes for a big difference. No one was trying to do more than one or two things. They all lifted each other up, and in that way, they were able to influence change from many perspectives, without overburdening themselves. This lesson in sharing the work is something I will surely take with me.
The last presentation that we were a part of today was from the man who led the battle against sea mining off the coast of Raglan and ultimately, all of NZ. Sea mining is an incredibly destructive process in which the sea bed is dug up and sucked out through a pipe. Then, precious minerals are extracted and the rest discarded in a fog of muck that takes up to 35 years to settle and disrupts marine life. After recognizing this danger to the community, a peaceful protest was organized and the children of the community made a video rejecting the proposal to mine off their coast. When asked how he stayed motivated and strong in his efforts with so many roadblocks in the way, Piripi responded that he was told by a friend to “stand in his love.” To stand in love is sometimes so hard – anger is far easier to access. However, love is sustainable, healthy, and powerful.
I still struggle to find the cause that calls to me amidst the many things that I find upsetting, but I know that the lessons I have learned today will influence me then as much as it does today. Leadership is not a stagnant concept; it is fluid and flexible. However, finding your team, staying connected, and standing in love are three concepts that are will ensure that your fight will be supported and sustainable. I encourage you all to take some time to check out the links below to learn more about the community initiatives mentioned above.