Waldorf Education at the end of the world: a beginning
Várzea da Roça is a small town of 20’000 people at the end of the world. It is situated 300km Northwest of Salvador de Bahia, in an extremely poor area in the outback of Brazil. At “Centro Anael” 15 people work hard on establishing an initiative following the example of “Monte Azul”: with kindergarten, school, and workshops…
In spring 2008 we started our work with local children, celebrating Easter together with 60 children. The kindergarten children experienced their first “Roda da Páscoa” with music, songs, stories and an Easter egg hunt. In the afternoon games and craft activities were offered for school children. The festival concluded with a puppet show and an Easter dance. The children entered a whole new world, as this was a kind of event, which they had never experienced before. With shining eyes a child asked, “May I come again next Sunday?”
Meanwhile, the celebrating of festivals has become a regular tradition. Each year, 100-300 children and adults attend our initiative at Easter, Midsummer, Michaelmas, Advent and Christmas and enjoy participating in games, crafts, singing and plays.
There are more than enough needy children in Várzea, but we cannot expect any school fees. Many parents are unemployed or live on a minimum salary fighting for their daily meal. We applied for financial help from the city, but this process is a long one, and requires much patience. Currently this means: we can only finance our daily work through the help of donations and educational sponsorships.
About 300km northwest of Salvador, the former city of slaves, Várzea da Roca is located in “the slums of Brazil” – the outback of the nation. Even today the population is predominantly dark-skinned but also mixed with light-skinned races and indigenous people. It is a pleasure to watch those often incredibly beautiful people.
This historical background as well as the extremely dry climate is the reason for the poverty in this area. With incredible effort and great modesty, the people here simply try to survive or else flee to the overcrowded cities in the south, in their desperate search for employment. In order to prevent the ever-increasing tendency of depopulation and counteract the bleak prospects of young people and children, solutions are sought for everywhere.
Thus a few years ago, a teacher from Várzea Roça saw a report on television about the “Monte Azul” initiative in Sao Paulo and inspired by their social work in the favelas she asked for help. At that time Wolfgang was looking for a new life task and was just visiting Monte Azul. In Várzea he found a place where he could apply his knowledge and skills and make them available for those in need.
Two years later, we were able to purchase the Chakara, our future school grounds, and a neighbouring piece of land with palm trees for private purposes, located at the outskirts of Varzea. With 15 Waldorf interested teachers we then founded the Associação Pedagógico Waldorf de Várzea da Roça on 29 September 2007. In Germany we found a friend who was enthused by our project and designed our first building plan.
In the spring of 2009 we completed the construction of our private home and the decoration of rooms for the kindergarten. In 2010 we built a temporary classroom under the canopy of two cashew trees with a cement floor and a small brick storage room. Here, every morning and afternoon a group with each about 15 children attend extra curricular classes.
Our vision for the future is to establish a basic Waldorf School for the local village population with an adjoining kindergarten. In afternoon classes and workshops (wood, metal, baking, gardening...) we wish to bring the children away from the streets and from television and offer them meaningful activities.
This idea and intention meets with fertile soil and the response is great. In 2011, our first kindergarten children will be ready for school and are eager to s attend “their own” school. We can actually start with a small first school class, but need urgent financial support for further development. As our private financing options have been exhausted, we are grateful for any help and financial support. We look forward to even more people to “take of” and help us build “another world”!
We found sponsors for the construction work. But the reasonable condition for their support of the building of the school is a safe and solid funding of maintenance costs. Therefore we are looking for people willing to help with a regular monthly (however small) contribution to the financing of our maintenance costs - kindergarten teachers salary etc.