Colombia: CES Waldorf (Corporación Educativa y Social Waldorf) is a private non-profit organisation in Ciudad Bolívar, a city district in the south-western mountains of Bogotá and one of Colombia´s biggest slums and reception centres for internally displaced people. Inspired by Waldorf education, CES Waldorf offers a unique educational and social program. Through arts, culture as well as medical and psychological assistance, it offers children, adolescents and their parents the opportunity to cope with their difficult living conditions, characterised by extreme poverty, drug abuse and violence, and to fulfil their wish for a dignified life.
Every day a team of 5 kindergarten teachers, 7 trained Waldorf educators, 3 social workers, a psychologist and a physician care for the integral development of about 70 children, 150 adolescents, as well as their parents and relatives.
In Colombia an internal armed conflict has been going on for more than five decades. The continuous hostilities between illegal armed militias (guerrilla and paramilitary groups) and the official security forces have led to a rural exodus and the displacement of more than four million people. Driven by fear and poverty, new families of refugees arrive daily in Bogotá where they look for shelter in Ciudad Bolívar and try to rebuild their lives amidst an atmosphere of violence, neglect, defencelessness and social exclusion. The presence of criminal groups that control entire neighbourhoods by means of terror and extortion and that use slums as recruiting grounds, the influence of the illegal drug trafficking, as well as lacking job opportunities and deficient education, aggravate the human rights situation of the population in Ciudad Bolívar.
Amidst difficult socio-economic conditions and a tenuous security situation, the “coloured house” – as the CES Waldorf is commonly referred to – represents a place of cure where, with Waldorf education, strongly traumatised people regain the belief in themselves and where the wish for a better future can flourish.
The history of CES Waldorf dates back to 1997 when a group of social workers together with Helmut von Loebell, an industrial manager who has been living in Colombia since 1956 and is co-founder of other social projects in Bogotá like the SOS Children´s Village Colombia, avoided the eviction of the dwellings of 36 refugee families and achieved their peaceful relocation to the Sierra Morena neighbourhood in Ciudad Bolívar.
In Sierra Morena the social workers familiarised the relocated families with the general requirements of an organised community life and helped the children with their academic processes. The specific needs of the population in Sierra Morena eventually resulted in the formal incorporation of CES Waldorf. In 2001 a building was rented where the Kindergarten was put up. A year later two further programs were launched: on the one hand the Program for Educational and Social Support for children and adolescents between 6 and 18 years of age (referred to as PAES for its acronym in Spanish), which offers five artistic workshops to promote creativity and integral development; on the other hand the Program for Social Work providing families with life orientation, therapeutic support in situations of crisis and preventive measures against abuse and maltreatment. In 2004 the CES Waldorf Centre, which is built on seven new properties, was inaugurated. Today additional programs like the Program for Medical Provision and Prevention as well as the Program for Adult Education are also offered at CES Waldorf.
The financial sustainability of the project is currently the biggest concern. Despite the donations of several public and private organisations from Europe and Colombia, raising new funds for the operating and maintenance costs remains a daily challenge.