Interview with Nelida Forero
“I advise anyone, even if you are not sure if you are ready to serve on a board, to request information and take action. Your community needs your perspective and contributions as much as you need your community.”
Program Coordinator, Mentorship for Immigrant Employment, London-Middlesex Immigrant Employment Council, and Board Member, Childreach
In September 2016 Nelida Forero was appointed to the board of Childreach, a parent resource centre that offers education, information, support, and outreach to parents in Southwestern Ontario. An experienced Human Resources professional originally from Colombia, Nelida spoke to DiverseCity onBoard about her first board experience in Canada and the moment she realized it was time to get involved.
Please tell us about your professional background and board experience.
Throughout more than 15 years as an HR professional, I discovered that connecting people is my passion. I have built my career working in a variety of roles in human resources, developing essential skills in creative problem solving, coaching, and team building, which have allowed me to develop the ability to create different strategies that effectively provide services to multicultural and diverse groups. I was given the opportunity to create and lead a successful Latin American HR Networking Group. As a consequence, I strengthened my interpersonal skills to form alliances and partnerships with community organizations. Currently, I am coordinating the Mentorship for Immigrant Employment Program through the London-Middlesex Immigrant Employment Council, where I am responsible for bringing together internationally trained job seekers with local mentors in their field to reach and empower skilled immigrants and help them integrate into the labour market in London and Middlesex area. My appointment at Childreach is my first board experience in Canada.
How were you introduced to DiverseCity onBoard, and why did you choose to get involved?
I was introduced to the program through Dharshi Lacey, Diversity & Governance Manager at Pillar Nonprofit and the Lead for the DiverseCity onBoard program in London. During our meeting, Dharshi said something that was crucial in my decision to join the program: “If you want to create a difference in our community, it is time to get involved at a new level”. After reading the material provided, I made the decision to get involved. As an immigrant, I feel that I am opening a path for newcomers and next generations. What the path looks like will depend on active participation in the community and how I am as a role model for future generations.
You were recently appointed to the board at Childreach. What is your interest in their board and the organization?
Being part of a board develops the leadership and communication skills of its members. In my new position, I have a mentor on the board who will support me. Additionally, the DiverseCity onBoard governance training has provided me with the knowledge to perform well in my new role as a board member. Personally, I chose this organization because as a mother, I truly want to positively influence the environment of our community’s children and support other parents as well. Childreach has excellent training programs for parents, vulnerable parents support programs, as well as tremendous children’s programs. On the board, I found a group of high-quality professionals from different backgrounds who share this goal.
What are some of the personal and professional benefits of being on a board that you have experienced?
Being part of a board requires your commitment as a whole person. For that reason, finding an organization that has similar values, goals, and vision as you is critical to performing successfully in the role. From my point of view, that’s the beauty of this program. I will use current skills to complement this board as well as develop new ones to strengthen the long-term vision. I am growing as a parent, partner, and community member.
What value do you feel that you bring to a board? What impact do you have?
Jacqueline Woodson said, “Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.” One of the most important values which I will bring to the Childreach board is diversity. Having a varied range of perspectives on the board is key to achieving effective governance. The most important benefits to having a diverse board is that it drives more effective decision-making, and long-term planning and solutions. Having a group of people with different skills, cultures, leadership, thinking, emotional styles, risk preferences, backgrounds, and experiences helps the board approach problems with a wider spectrum of ways to handle challenging situations. A diverse board also enhances the community’s impact and perception, and funders’ relations by establishing the organization as a responsible citizen. A diverse board can encourage non-discrimination policies, equal opportunities for employment, and show the leadership’s willingness to have an organization as a socially responsible citizen. It also reflects the diversity of the society and community served by the organization. This reflection could fortify relations between an organization and its funders as well as help strengthen its community awareness and earn its trust.
Were there any challenges you faced in joining a board? What advice would you give to others who are looking to get involved in leadership and join a board?
As an immigrant, it can be a challenge to understand the right time to be involved in a board. I was ready but was not aware of it. Through my conversation with Dharshi, the program manager at DiverseCity onBoard London and analyzing what kind of skills and responsibilities is required of board members, I realized that I was ready to serve on a board. I advise anyone, even if you are not sure if you are ready to serve on a board, to request information and take action. Your community needs your perspective and contributions as much as you need your community.