Marta Arango is co-founder and Director of CINDE – the International Center for Education and Human Development, a child focused research and development center, the most prominent NGO working with and for children in Colombia. She was born in Colombia and educated there and in the United States where she received a Ms in Curriculum from the University of Wisconsin and a PhD in Education and Psycholinguistics from the University of California in Berkeley. After her graduation she worked at Far West Laboratory for Research and Development where she participated in training teachers for Head Start and Follow Through programs and at Nova University where she co-directed an Ed.D Doctoral Program in Early Childhood Education. She returned to South America in 1974 and, after 18 months in Venezuela, returned to Colombia with her husband Glen Nimnicht and founded CINDE.
My Definition Of Success | For me success is to empower as many families and communities as possible so they can contribute to the integral development of their children and they can achieve their full potential. Also to prepare an army of people who can develop programs to empower families and communities. Initially success for me was to achieve the best level of education that could prepare me to do the things I wanted and I was interested in. My family supported me to achieve secondary education. Then after that I got my BA, Master´s degree and PH.D through work and scholarships.
Also to be successful I needed coherence between the principles and actions that have guided my personal and professional life. At one point I also considered influencing governments was very important and I gave life to that idea in my everyday work. As years passed I could see with great deal of satisfaction how our initial ideas, shared with others that had the same interest, grew significantly. Now days in Latin America many governments, communities and families are better equipped to make, for instance, early childhood and development, a reality.
I Am Driven By | What drives me is the conviction that to have a just society we need to create opportunities for everyone to develop their full potential and that requires better physical and psychological environments for children from the moment of conception and to work with families and communities. It also drives me, as I said before, the believe that organized communities with clear ideas and goals will contribute decisively to the creation of those opportunities.
Critical Skills I Develop | I think one of the talents that have been critical to my success is the ability to identify, creatively the opportunities for growth and development and the discipline to take advantage of them and finding non-conventional ways to achieve them and running the risks that came along. This is more difficult now, because the flexibility we used to have years ago, has disappeared. Everything is more reglamented.
One of my strengths has been the resilience to continue going when circumstances were difficult or look almost impossible to accomplish and also to use my sense humor even in the most difficult moments. Also the ability to identify people’s talents, skills and interests and create institutional environments where each person can use them to their full potential. Doing things my own way…..
A Key Talent | My advice to the readers is to be open minded to see out of the box opportunities in the area of their interest. I also suggest they should find unusual, different, creative ways of doing them, not caring for what other people think.
Principles I Live By | I think some of the more important principles and values to live by are:
Honesty, solidarity, gratitude, respect for the difference, respect for the autochthonous cultures and their traditional knowledge, defend the value of life from the beginning of it and particularly early childhood education.
Lessons I Have Learnt | One of the lessons I have learnt is the importance of identifying people with similar values and interests because it is essential to organize productive teams in a participatory environment, as well as identifying people’s strengths and creating opportunities to use them in their daily activities.
I have also learned that empowering people is essential to obtain a sustainable result that means teaching them to fish, instead of giving them fish. To innovate you need to be ready to live with criticism, opposition to your ideas and run unexpected risks. To have clarity of objectives and passion to work toward them is more important than just having the money….
Dealing With Doubt | I am most of the time a positive and optimist person and generally look at the good side of the situations. I also understand that sometimes you cannot deal with the best potential alternatives. Do the best with what you have at hand.
The moments of self-doubt, fear or negative are moments to reaffirm and reflect about my believes and objectives. Opportunities to look for alternative ways to deal with the problems at hand. Also these are time to share with friends and ask for advice
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | My dream is to have a world with equity and quality of life for everyone, with opportunities to develop their full potential. To accomplish that we need sustainable institutions on a long term with very committed and passionate professionals.
CINDE, the institution my husband and I created become a great motivator for countries and institutions to promote ECCD. One of my dreams is that it continuous to be so.
A dream of many years became a reality when the Colombian government formulated an Early Childhood Education public policy defined as a national priority. Now the challenge is to see that policy become a reality in quality programs. And my biggest dream is to see all people promoting ECCD and understanding the importance of early child development for society.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | The best advice I ever received was from my mother when I was a child and told me: Learn to use what you have and find the potential and wealth they possess. Do not dream, worry and frustrate about what you do not have. With that attitude one finds great possibilities in the resources at hand. That has been a great help through different moments in my life. It is also a piece of advice I have been transmitting to others for many years, especially my students, the communities I worked with and, of course, my colleagues.
I Am Inspired By | My parents were and still are my great source of inspiration. My mother inspired me to work in social causes, especially with the most underprivileged people of society. My father inspired me a great deal to develop my intellectual capacities. Both of them believed the good education was the best inheritance they could leave us. My husband Glen Nimnicht was also a great inspiration and together we founded CINDE, an institution dedicated to work with families and communities of poor urban and rural communities and to prepare people to work on those types of programs.
At different moments of my life I was inspired by some of my professors and persons who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to develop my potential. That was very important for me, because I came from a large family with no financial resources. My mother died when I was 18 and I was the 5th of ten children. I had to help raise and educate my younger brothers and sisters including a 4 and a 6 year old.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | A sustainable institution focused on improving the quality of life of communities, families and their children and a big group of sensitive professionals adequately prepared to work on the same type of programs to guarantee that we leave a world better than the one we found.