Project completed – Our commitment continues
The Friends of Waldorf Education have completed the third and for now last trauma-related education project in the Gaza Strip and handed it over to local experts. The new escalation of violence last November left its mark and makes the educational work with traumatized children and young people more important than ever. The funding of the project by the German Department of Foreign Affairs has ended, but the Friends would like to maintain their local commitment.
During their last Gaza mission in early February, the emergency pedagogy team of the Friends of Waldorf Education visited the “Child Friendly Space” in Zaitoun. It was clear that the military air strikes had deeply affected the children. “The older kids have lost some of their happiness. They look at us with empty eyes and some of the children barely speak. The younger children in contrast, seem to have been less affected by the events: they play in a lively and peaceful way in the sandbox, they have fun during group games, and seem to have a smile on their face,” says Lukas Mall, coordinator of the emergency pedagogy team.
Since 2009, emergency pedagogy teams went on 11 missions to the Gaza Strip. As of 2010, the Department for Foreign Affairs supported the work of the emergency educators with around € 800,000. Until the completion of the project in February 2013, the Friends have trained 50 locals in trauma-related education, advised six kindergartens in developing child-friendly approaches, and established a Child Friendly Space in Zaitoun. Especially the good cooperation with the local partner organization, Al Qattan Centre for the Child in Gaza has significantly contributed to the positive development of the project, emphasizes Mall.
In February, the main focus of the Friends’ team was to hand over the project to local educators. A series of lectures and exercises about trauma educational issues and anthropological questions completed the project. It has become clear that the local professionals that were trained by the Friends for four years are now able to independently continue the educational work in the child protection centre and other facilities. Due to the unstable situation in the Gaza Strip, however, there will be much more work to do according to Mall: “We have created a basis for trauma-related education and now have to ensure that we continue to support local initiatives to ensure that victims do not turn into criminals”.
Fortunately there is no lack of contacts to local initiatives. A workshop was held at the “Sun Day Care Centre” - a centre for autistic and handicapped children. Here the teachers were trained in Waldorf educational methods, which they accepted with great enthusiasm. Furthermore, on two afternoons four team members worked with the children of the “Future Hope Centre” - a facility for street children and school dropouts. The head of the initiative was so excited that she offered to work in cooperation long-term, “What do we have to do to make you come back again?"
Following the overwhelming farewell party of the children from the Child Friendly Space, the positive development of children has once again made it clear that the invested time, effort and love was absolutely worth it. Saying goodbye was obviously difficult, but everyone hopes that it was only a temporary goodbye. "Once we are able secure funds again, we will continue our work in Gaza!"