50 years after the founding of the Friends of Waldorf Education, the organisation is pursuing three major fields of activity. In addition to promoting the worldwide Waldorf school movement, with which our work began in the 1970s, we have been accompanying volunteers at home and abroad since 1993. Since 2006, the Friends have been involved with EMERGENCY PEDAGOGY for children in war and crisis situations. So, in addition to 50 years of working for the worldwide Waldorf school movement, we are celebrating a second anniversary this year: 15 years of EMERGENCY PEDAGOGY. With this appeal for donations we would like to ask you to support this vital and pressing area of the Friends’ work.
The Friends’ engagement in EMERGENCY PEDAGOGY began - fatefully - in the summer of 2006, during the Football World Cup. The city of Stuttgart was one of the venues for the matches and the Mayor of Stuttgart organised a UNESCO Peace Festival as a cultural programme young people from all over the world were invited to attend. Among them were 300 Waldorf students from 16 countries whose visit was organised and accompanied by the Friends of Waldorf Education.
After the end of the World Cup, the Überlingen Waldorf School invited the Waldorf students to a week of encounters on Lake Constance. In the middle of this international peace education event, the Israeli-Lebanese war broke out. Lebanon's infrastructure was severely damaged: airports, bridges and main roads were destroyed, and the south of the country was temporarily occupied by Israeli troops. The 21 students from the therapeutic education school in Beirut, the only group of young people with disabilities at the Stuttgart UNESCO Peace Festival, were unable to return home. The young people found board and lodging for them at the Karl Schubert School in Stuttgart, and the city of Stuttgart spared neither effort nor expense to make the involuntary extension of their stay bearable. But even though the young people were safe and well looked after here, they and their families wanted to be reunited.
Finally, those responsible for the city of Stuttgart and the Friends of Waldorf Education decided to return the group to Beirut - and that meant to war. After a two-day journey on hazardous paths across Syria and the north of Lebanon, the young people were handed over unharmed to their happy parents in Beirut. But the German helpers experienced something on the ground that they had previously seen only on the television screen: war at first hand. And in the refugee camps they met the human victims, the ‘collateral damage’ of political interests: traumatised children. Every therapeutic and special educator knows how relatively easy and sustainable it is to help these children process their experiences in the early stages of traumatisation and how difficult it is to provide sustainable help at a later stage, when trauma-related symptoms and reactions have already become chronic.
The traumatised refugee children in the therapeutic education school in Beirut became the midwives of EMERGENCY PEDAGOGY based in the principles of Waldorf education. Today, we are still connected to the therapeutic education school in Beirut. It is part of the Step Together Association, which, in addition to the school also has training programmes, workshops, therapeutic programmes and a residential home for people with disabilities. Also, after the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut on 4th August 2020, an emergency educational team from the Friends flew to Lebanon to conduct training sessions with Step Together caregivers and work with the children and young people during home visits.
The EMERGENCY PEDAGOGY of the Friends of Waldorf Education addresses people everywhere, especially in crisis and disaster situations. As with the therapeutic education school in Beirut, there is always cooperation with Waldorf schools or Waldorf kindergartens all over the world. For example, in Oakland, California, USA. The Community School for Creative Education is a state-funded school that works with elements of Waldorf education.
"95 percent of the children come from rather precarious economic situations in the immediate neighbourhood of the school," explains Ida Oberman, the school's founder. The area is characterised by crime and drug use, which leads to trauma being suffered by many of the pupils. Closely connected to German Waldorf education, Oberman observed the emergence of the Friends' EMERGENCY PEDAGOGY work and worked to ensure that it also benefited the children at her school. Since 2013, an emergency education team has travelled to the school every year to give seminars to the teachers and talks to the children's families. Workshops are also offered for employees of municipal institutions, neighbourhood aid organisations and church congregations, which are gladly accepted.
In Oakland, as in the emergency educational work in acute disaster situations, the work with educators is of great importance, in addition to the direct work with the children. Therefore, a large part of our work is the training of emergency educators. The better the people on the ground are trained, the faster they can act in an emergency. This is also the case with our work in Iraq. After the invasion by troops of the so-called "Islamic State", the situation in Syria and the neighbouring states has been precarious for many years. Millions of people were and are on the run. The civilian population and, above all the children, are the tragic victims of this fighting. In August 2013, there was a first emergency educational mission in Lebanon, in which Syrian refugee children were offered emergency educational assistance.
In cooperation with UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, EMERGENCY PEDAGOGY has also been active in refugee camps in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan since the end of 2013. At the beginning of the work in northern Iraq, there were hardly any offers of help for psychological trauma and mental health care. Our local trained emergency and trauma educators help the children and young people to deal with their traumatic experiences and to break the cycle of violence. A sustainable improvement of the situation can be achieved by training local experts to become trainers, as this allows care structures to expand without the help of international organisations. In the meantime, there are over
40 local staff members who have been trained and work daily with the children and young people in three camps under the name FWE (Friends of Waldorf Education). We also have a local office that coordinates the work and plans seminars.
In addition to the examples described here, the Friends' EMERGENCY PEDAGOGY has worked with children and young people who have been psychologically traumatised as a result of armed conflicts and natural disasters in Gaza (2009-2014), Indonesia (2009), Haiti (2010), Kyrgyzstan (2010), Kenya (2012-2013, 2017), Philippines (2013-2015, 2018), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014), Nepal (2015), Lesbos (2015), Ecuador and Haiti (2016), Mexico (2017), Bangladesh (2017-2018), Indonesia (2018), Mozambique and Zimbabwe (2019).
But these important missions, as well as the training of local emergency educators, are only possible with the help of donations. With your donation you help us to actively counteract trauma and fear.