Susanna Rech-Bigot has been working for the Friends of Waldorf Education in the Karlsruhe office since 2009. Since summer this year, she has been involved in the Friends' board, in addition to her work for the voluntary services. In an interview, she talked to us about her motivation for taking this step, and her enthusiasm for the international work of the association.
Susanna, you have been with the Friends for a long time. How did you come to join us back then?
When I met the Friends, I was just 20. I was part of a group of former volunteers who got together and founded an association to represent the interests of volunteers. Grenzenlos e. V. is the name of this association, and it still exists today. Many former volunteers of the Friends participated in the founding of the association. That's how I got interested in the Friends. At the beginning of the 2000s, the Friends of Waldorf Education commissioned us to design and run preparatory seminars, and that was my very first contact with the office in Karlsruhe. At that time I already thought, this is s a great association, I'd like to work there later. And then at some point there was a job advertisement for a post in Karlsruhe. In fact, I didn't get this job, but another one with the Friends. But I was really happy to have arrived here. Since 2009 I have been working full time for the Friends. What I particularly like about it is the international work. In the start-up phase of the "weltwärts" programme, I had the chance to get to know many of our workplaces on several continents. It appeals to me to see how Waldorf education is implemented in diverse cultural contexts, and with what inventive means, and how much heart and soul is offered by the people work involved.
The Friends covers a huge field of work, but I have always found the original idea of supporting Waldorf education worldwide - be it through the International Waldorf Fund or the WOW-Day or the volunteer services - to be an idea I can support. I appreciate the fact that we are not missionaries and do not go around saying: "Oh, it would be great to build a Waldorf school". Rather we accept and support impulses that come from local people on the ground. I think that's just right.
What exactly do you do at the Friends?
In the volunteer services, we work with teams that are specialised regionally, and I have led a country team that accompanies volunteers and placement sites in Africa and Europe. I am mainly active in accompanying the volunteers, especially in the French-speaking countries: France, Cameroon, Senegal. I will also continue to accompany a German-French seminar group, where German and French volunteers meet and then go to each other’s country. It is important to me to continue to be involved in concrete educational work with young people.
What connects you with Waldorf education?
I find it a wonderful alternative. I didn't go to a Waldorf school myself, but my children do. I got to know Waldorf education during my studies through a fellow student and have discovered more and more aspects that appeal to me and in which I find inspiring. I like the holistic approach of Waldorf education and the possibility to address not only the cognitive, but to serve the range of human intelligences. I very much appreciate the focus on head, heart and hands. We offer this approach at the seminars for volunteers, as we work with the methods and approaches of Waldorf education with young adults who are preparing for voluntary service.
What do you see as your main tasks as a board member of the Friends?
I see both internal and external tasks. First of all, it is important to carry the impulse of the Friends of Waldorf Education into the future. To inspire people to get involved, to perceive the needs of children, adolescents and young adults, and to offer them educational spaces in which they can grow and develop.
I find it essential to work for authentic relationships and freedom in education in an increasingly complex world. I experience the work we stand for as valuable and meaningful and would like to make it possible for as many young people as possible to do voluntary service in one of the many Waldorf institutions around the world. Internally, I would like two areas of work of the voluntary services - the foreign services and the domestic services – to stay close together and create good connections between them. It is also important to me to create a good network between all the departments - the Voluntary Services, International Cooperation and Emergency Education – and thus also between our offices in Karlsruhe and Berlin. It is not only a matter of representing the point of view of the Voluntary Services Department, but of keeping an eye on the whole and jointly pursuing our goal as an association; namely, to promote Waldorf education, and to promote an education that enables people to be free.