Growing Up To Be A Child – Waldorf School in Colombia

Expedition – Cali, Colombia

Vea esta historia en Español

It’s True, I Am Growing Up To Be A Child

Upon departing Pasadena California on another “Project Suitcase” mission to deliver a large suitcase filled with fifty pounds of art supplies to the Waldorf School in Cali Colombia… I had no idea how close I would be to being a child. Endlessly curious. Playful. Inquisitive about everything. Thirst for knowledge. Hunger for play. A free spirit in discovery and imagination; and inventive.

Quizzical. Imagine this in yourself. As you were in kindergarten. I already knew this about myself. People often times think I ask too many questions. Edison and Einstein share this same criticism. It is true, inquiring minds discover. And, now I was discovering the depths of the Waldorf Methodology in a way I had yet to know.

Special people at Cali Waldorf. Wise. Loving. Inspired. I have always bee attracted to the Waldorf Schools because we both share non-traditional views. As a dual artist/business man, right-brain/left-brain thinker, I have always appreciated the Waldorf School method of teaching a child to express themselves through art. Painting. Sewing. Music. Crafts. Dance. Chalk. Consider the possibilities of artistic expression? Fully self expressed!

For me to bring hard-to-get art supplies in a “Project Suitcase” five thousand five hundred kilometers to Colombia and see the joy and gratitude in the eyes of the teachers… is the pleasure that makes my heart sing. It brings me great happiness to give to such deserving and grateful people what they need to cultivate our next generation.

The Administrator of this school, Luis Horacio Gomez Colegio Waldorf, Deyanira Collazos, says it is easy to understand people bringing gifts in suitcases. What is unique and very special is that she was contacted ahead of time about what she desired; asked what the teachers really need. AND, then an entire suitcase is delivered with exactly what was requested. Deyanira is a extraordinary woman running the Cali Waldorf School. She was the personal secretary to the school’s founder Luis Gomez and has been there from the beginning in 1977. The Cali school now has 500 students from kindergarten through high school on an intricate and expansive campus.

Square chalk, in rich saturated colors. Easy for me to buy in the United States, hard for Cali Waldorf to obtain in Columbia. Craft Books. Fabrics. Sheets of spectacular colors of felt. Paintbrushes. Watercolors. Yards and yards of fine silk. Many of these items, in the specialized ways they need them, are hard to obtain in Colombia, and makes my journey an exceptional “Project Suitcase” delivery!

I am rapidly learning Spanish. Two months in a program of conversational Spanish. Two weeks now in Colombia with my primary language requiring Spanish. It is a valuable experience that I must think and create sentences in Spanish. I am enjoying. Sometimes extremely challenging.

To the translation rescue is bilingual Victor Letelier, the Librarian at Cali Waldorf. His library bursting with books, and his Waldorf experience and knowledge immense! Victor spent two days with me showing me the campus, introducing me to the teachers, the children, and the numerous support staff that makes this school very special. Victor gave me a whole new appreciation for what is behind the love and un-tradition that has attracted me to Waldorf all these years.

Waldorf uses natural products. Buildings are made of wood and bamboo. Students use 100% silk, cotton and wool. The belief is taught that fake materials have no essence. Without life, materials have distance! Natural has a soul. When you touch wool, you feel the essence of the sheep’s soul. It is a notable ambiance to be felt on a campus of natural materials.

Speaking of natural, the pharmacy at the school is all-natural. Waldorf has a full time Nurse, Maria Isolina Kiston, who uses natural methods. Herbs. Homeopathic. Plus, they grow and teach the kids agriculture for healthy foods and medicines. The cafeteria has strict standards of very healthy ingredients. And no soda! Natural health works! And if not, it does not have the many destructive side effect of drugs. This is my way of thinking, and being… no wonder I am attracted to this organization.

After becoming conscious to the connection of wool to sheep, consider now the connection of using paintbrushes used by a talented professional painter in creating her works of art. Ann Seltzer of Claremont California, a wonderful friend and Waldorf appreciator, donated her personal tools to these Cali children. Brushes, watercolors, etc. Imagine painting and being connected to the essence of a successful painter. Priceless.

Getting the picture of the depths of this “Project Suitcase” experience? Now add smiles. Genuine eyes. Beautiful smiles. Gratitude. “Project Suitcase” becomes a movement that goes way beyond mailing a donation check. It is an experience of life. To see the joy of Eurhythmy teacher, Nancy Arias, unfolding the beautiful soft silk, and picturing the dresses she will teach her student to make as well as the many dances they will learn and experience… is a joy worth the journey of thousands of miles!

We also had deep conversations with Cali Waldorf School’s President (Principal) Mario Viera, who has an extensive education and background in Psychology. Mario pursued this direction, not for a profession, he did so in search for answers of: Who Is The Human. He studied many different Psychologists and types of psychology. Not to be a Psychologists, he would rather be a farmer. His untraditional approach to understanding the human lead Waldorf to him and the remarkable relationship they now have. Wisdom is the presence you experience when Mario speaks, and I say this about a man whom I do not speak his language.

Deep conversations were explored about twelve senses (not the traditional five). From Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell and Taste, now includes Movement, Temperature and Balance. It is easy to comprehend that we “sense” these things! This begins a deeper understanding of sensing. Now add Language (it is the feeling and expression that we sense), Thought (of another person), Individuality (as an essence of another being), and the sense of Hearing (not noise, an understanding of what the other person is actually saying, it is heart felt). See how interesting and deep these concepts can take a conversation? It makes you want to enroll now! To be in the presence of this kind of wisdom and thinking on a daily basis. I knew I was growing up to be a child, maybe I am ready for kindergarten now!

Waldorf Schools started in 1919 in Germany by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. Today there are more than a thousand schools worldwide. The Waldorf Education is based on a profound understanding of human development and provides a detailed, richly artistic curriculum that responds to and enhances the child’s developmental phases, from early childhood through high school, cultivates social and emotional intelligence, connects children to nature, ignites passion for lifelong learning, and is considered the fastest growing educational movement in the world. Well over 90% of Waldorf graduates go to college, are active in lifelong education and place a high value on critical thinking.

So… Who is the human? The whole person? Behind and In-between what we think we know? Questions are the motor of life. And these questions remain never ending explorations of the administration, teachers and students at the Waldorf School. Makes me want to be a kindergartner in next year’s class. Does age need to have anything to do with it? At least a Waldorf’s Honorary Kindergartner! I know I have grown up to be a child…

Join me, and experience for yourself these amazing “Project Suitcase” adventures!


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