04 junho 2019

Letter to my friend - Training course about Emergency Pedagogy

My dear friend,

I’m writing you from Lisbon, more specifically from Bairro Padre Cruz, in Carnide, where I have just finished a training course on humanitarian action, on giving and receiving it, a course which really changed me inwardly and made me a better person.

Have you ever heard about Emergency Pedagogy? It was born in Germany in 2006, when its founder, Mr. Bernd Ruf (Waldorf teacher), had to follow the repatriation of 21 young Lebanese who were in Germany at that time. Lebanon lived in a war scenario provoked by the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, but the children's parents asked to bring them back home. In order to do it, a rigorous planning of his repatriation was made so that everything was carried out with security. It was this scenario that impelled Bern Ruf to create the Emergency Pedagogy.

Let me explain to you shortly what is it about. The main goal of this pedagogy is to act in situations of war and natural disasters by assisting emotionally injured children and youngsters to regain confidence in themselves, in other people, and in the world. The activities proposed are based on arts, music and rhythm games, inspired on Waldorf pedagogy, allowing the children to express themselves without being forced to speak. But the work also applies to the realities of countries affected by other types of situations. Imagine the situation we had two years ago with the forest fires that devastated the country. Hundreds of affected people needed urgent support in processing their experiences and memories ... Victims of emotional trauma are often (even more so in war scenarios) left behind, and this can have serious consequences. We don’t think a lot about these subjects because they seemed really distant, but they must be thought and discussed. We must prepare ourselves to act in these situations and provide help. We can think in concrete examples: thousands of refugees are arriving European countries in large numbers and we cannot even imagine the situations they had to deal with (not only in the past) to be here now. They don’t come with external wounds that require medical intervention, but what about the emotional wounds they carry inside? Who treats them? Who cares about?

During these eight days, that's what I did - thinking and studying trauma and soul wounds. I and another twenty-nine teachers, educators, social workers, psychologists, musicians, artists, translators... Each one from a different reality and a different context. Some came from Germany, Italy, Greece, or even from Romania, Spain, and Norway. What brought us together was much more than the fact that we all work with populations with a traumatic biographical history: migrants, refugees, homeless, or others. What brought us together was the conviction that a deeper awareness of a problem can help to overcome it. What brought us together was the confidence that the experiences exchange makes us richer and that at the end of this training course we can act more consciously and with more professionalism. The training course brought us together with the theoretical knowledge that we received directly from the founder of the pedagogy and the feelings promoted by the trainers who accompanied him and shared with us the long experience in this field. And, at the end of these days, at the end of more than 192 hours spent with these people, I can tell you, my dear friend, that we are joined by bonds of friendship that we will bring to life. Despite the hardness of the theme, I keep the sweet memory of the calm and warm voice of Julia Neitzke, (one of the German colleagues) with a song that does not stop in my head and stubbornly comes out of my lips:

Building bridges between our divisions, 
I reach out to you, will you reach out to me? 
With all of our voices and all of our visions, 
Friends, we could make such sweet harmony. 

A song that can bring serenity to the chaos. I hope to meet you soon to sing it for you too. With love, P.S.: I'll tell you about Ehmed too, and the other Syrian refugees that I met. Ahmed was part of the Portuguese team and shared with us his experience as a refugee living in Portugal. Another strong testimony about his difficult journey from Syria to Portugal, a beautiful history about resilience and strength that made me grow.

By Luciana Joana

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