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South America October and November 2016

International Groups South America

An important focus of the work of the Friends in the area of emergency pedagogy is the training and continuing education of local professionals. This strengthens the worldwide network of emergency pedagogy mission groups, which are able to quickly provide aid in the case of a catastrophe, and can independently as well as in cooperation with the Friends carry out emergency pedagogy crisis interventions on site. In various cities, there are now established initiatives with their own emergency pedagogy groups (country groups).
In October and November trainings once again took place in Chile, Columbia, and Brazil, in order to further educate local colleagues and interested persons.

Already 6 years ago, teams travelled to South America to provide emergency pedagogy training courses. The trainings took place in cooperation with various local and international partners.

“Well trained emergency teams in the region are necessary to shorten reaction times in the case of a crisis. This is the only way to be able to provide fast, professional, and comprehensive aid” agree the aid organisations’ responsible persons for the project. Contact between the organisations was established mostly through their membership in the German collation of relief organisations Aktion Deutschland Hilft.

How successful the country groups model is and how important and helpful a local working network is, was seen this year after the devastating earthquake in Ecuador. Here an emergency pedagogy mission took place, where for this first time the team consisted mostly of local colleagues. Eight of the twelve team members live and work in Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, and Chile. The mission went so smoothly and well not least because of the professionalism and reliability of the South American colleagues. In addition, the local colleagues’’ mission was financed mostly by South American donations.

In Brazil this year an independent emergency/Waldorf pedagogy organisation was founded. The corresponding certificate was present ceremoniously to Reinaldo Nascimento, voluntary services coordinator of the Friends in Brazil as well as founder of the Brazilian organisation, by Bernd Ruf as part of this year’s emergency pedagogy anniversary conference.

Already in 2011 were the participants of the seminar in Rio excited. Further workshops followed, emergency pedagogy became more and more well-known. Additionally, Reinaldo Nascimento took part in many international missions, which on the one hand increased the competence of the Brazilian emergency pedagogy team and on the other hand also further increased emergency pedagogy’s popularity. In 2014 the decision was made to found an independent organisation. The country group wanted with this move to become more independent and to have more control over their management and financing. The organisation should make it easier for potential South American donors to donate. The personal closeness and connectedness with regional organisations is inherently greater than with partners abroad.

At the moment the team consists of 7 colleagues who work on a volunteer basis. The plan for the future is to be able to have one or two of them as salaried employees. Organisations like the Mahle-Foundation and the Waldorf Institute support the group, there has also already been cooperation with General Motors. Further discussions with potential partners are currently taking place. In cooperation with Software AG a seminar for lawyers is planned.
In the period to come, also the work with adults will probably become more of a focus of the local emergency pedagogues. For this, good experiences have already been made, also what the cooperation with doctors and other institutions concerns.

Colombia - Children without a Childhood

Integration of Former Child Soldiers with Emergency Pedagogy 

The lives of many people in Colombia are defined by violence, displacement, and social and emotional distress. The decades-long civil war has caused severe repercussions in the South American country. After lengthy peace talks between the Colombian government and the revolutionary fighting forces (FARC), a peace agreement was reached in December 2016. The resocialisation process for former child soldiers can now begin. The emergency pedagogy team of the Friends of Waldorf Education is advising the Colombian government and supports civil society actors in their work to psycho-socially stabilise the people, especially traumatised children and adolescents.

Colombians have been living with the brutal violence of civil war for more than 50 years. The bloody battle between leftist guerrilla troops, right-wing paramilitary groups, and the Colombian military has caused the civilian population great distress: armed attacks and the fear of expulsion have forced many families from their home villages. The constant terror has resulted in fears and nightmares for many children. The traumatisation is severe. A third of civilian landmine victims are children.

In Colombia, boys and girls are still today abused as soldiers: Around a fourth of all fighters are children and adolescents. Many of them are forcibly recruited with armed violence. Others join the troops out of necessity. They come from poor, often broken families and are searching desperately for perspectives. In their hope for a better life, they have fought and have been tortured, beaten, and abused.

The most important reason for the conflict was and still is the large social disparity between the poor and the rich and the associated extremely unequal distribution of land, which has lead to large rural exodus. A majority of the population lives in the cities, many of them under inhumane conditions. The number of people violently forced to leave their villages has continuously risen in the past few years. At this time, around 30,000 children live permanently on the streets. 68% of Colombian children live in poverty, just as many are abused, a third have no access to education. All armed groups use the drug trade as a source of financing.

Since the end of 2012, the conflict parties have been negotiating a peace agreement. Representatives from the FARC and the government reached a peace deal in December 2016. The war seems to have finally ended, but the scares won’t heal for a long time. The children are severely traumatised from their experiences and have no perspectives, and are not being specifically supported in processing their terrible experiences. A reintegration process muss be pushed ahead quickly so that these children do not join criminal gangs, like the BACRIM whose core business is drug trade, due to lack of perspectives. 

The ministry of education, civilian protection of the interior ministry, and civil society actors, must now deal with the question of how to integrate former child soldiers into society. Many form gangs. They have never attended school; their lives have been shaped by neglect, exhortation and instrumentalisation as well as the deaths of close friends and family members. They don’t know any peaceful courses of action. In addition to psychological damages which their experiences have caused, these children and adolescents usually do not have any conflict management strategies. They often turn from victim into perpetrator—they become criminals and thereby destroy themselves.

Emergency Pedagogy for Burn Victims

In 2013, the founder of emergency pedagogy Bernd Ruf travelled for the first time to Colombia to raise pedagogues’, volunteer aid workers’, and parents’ awareness for a professional handling of the symptoms and resulting disorders of war and flight related traumata and to train and qualify them in emergency pedagogy methods. A doctor and nurse, who work on the station for burn victims at the University Clinic in Cali, reported about the severe emotional effects of war victims’ burn injuries. “The pain, the desperation, and the emotional wounds of the children and adolescents with burn injuries know no bounds,” the doctor reported. After participating in the seminar, it was immediately clear to her that emergency pedagogy care of the children and adolescents with thermal injuries at her clinic was essential.


Since then, emergency pedagogy offerings to stabilise the children and adolescents have been taking place on the unit for burn victims 1-2 times a week. Therapists, pedagogues, psychologists, and doctors offer various stabilising offerings. With creative-artistic forms of expressions, affected persons are given a way to express their experiences non-verbally. Through experiential pedagogy exercises, trust in oneself and others should be rebuilt. Through emergency pedagogy methods, possible biographical long-term effects such as the development of a post-traumatic stress reaction, should be prevented or at least lessened.


The continuous, emergency pedagogy care of burn victims was evaluated over 12 months. The results were better than expected: Not only did the programme have a positive affect on the psyche of the children and adolescents; it also improved the healing of their physical wounds. The children, who participated in the emergency pedagogy measures, healed from the burns faster. The pedagogical methods are proven to help relieve the stress of trauma, strengthen powers of resilience, and improve the healing process. After these positive results, the project was expanded onto the child and adolescent psychiatry at the University Clinic in Cali. Furthermore, emergency pedagogy methods will now be established on the station for child and adolescent victims of violence. Further trainings in emergency pedagogy are planned.


Integration and Schooling of Former Child Soldiers


In addition to civil society actors, who introduced emergency pedagogy to their care and treatment of injured war victims and traumatised child soldiers, also the Colombian government took notice of the emergency pedagogy offerings of the German organisation. The ministry of education invited emergency pedagogue Bernd Ruf to a conference in Medellin. There, 250 teachers were trained in dealing with traumatised child soldiers and children and adolescents who have formed crime gangs. The focus was an adequate pedagogical reaction: how does one handle children, who have only experienced violence as a solution to problems? How can teachers help children and adolescents with (re-)socialisation? In many workshops possible emergency pedagogy methods were then further deepened.


The interior ministry also invited Bernd Ruf to support police and firefighters in their task of designing the reintegration process for child soldiers.


Emergency Pedagogy is Pedagogical Acute Aid


The number of children who will become victims of accidents, natural catastrophes, violence, abuse, mistreatment, experiences of loss, and war events is high. Every minute children lose their parents, are beaten, injured, abused, and mistreated. If a terrible experience occurs, and the soul of the child is wounded, it can have far-reaching consequences. Massive feelings of insecurity are the result.


Emergency pedagogy is pedagogical first aid based on Waldorf pedagogy. Emergency pedagogy interventions try to help affected children and adolescents in processing their traumatic experiences with stabilising measures. By providing protection and safety, building up reliable relationships, experiencing self-worth, self-control, and self-efficacy, and the reduction of stress as well as the creation of a healing group-atmosphere, the entire constitution of the child is strengthened and its self-healing powers are activated. The goal is to integrate traumatic experiences into the biography and thus counteract the development of a post-traumatic stress disorder.Waldorf pedagogy as holistic and child-oriented pedagogy with a global dimension is especially suited – supported by specific artistic therapy forms - to serve as the foundation for emergency pedagogy interventions. In designed teaching and play phases, in free play, and in phases of creative-artistic design, personal resources shaken by trauma are set free and activated. A rhythmically designed daily structure, regulated eating and sleeping times, quiet and action phases  give children and adolescents a new orientation framework, safety and security, and thus build-up and promote safety giving relationships, trust and self trust, new world interest, and age appropriate self-control and autonomy.

Empower & donate now
Empower & donate now