By Philippe Artelt

Pedagogues, doctors, teachers – a wide variety of professional groups can help children as emergency helpers in crisis areas. (imago / fStop Images / Malte Müller)

After hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, emergency educators take care of children. You travel to crisis zones, juggling balls, skipping ropes or modeling wax in your suitcase. There are conventional aid and that of the Waldorf. The latter also attracts criticism.

The mission begins with an email. A cry for help arrives from halfway around the world in Karlsruhe – and the stress begins for Lukas Mall and Fiona Bay.

“For example, in December we had the case where Hurricanes Iota and Eta left the Caribbean with considerable devastation. We then received a request from a very small marine biology organization, which is also not an educational organization. something with the kids.

They phone the Karlsruhe office and go through the list of several hundred volunteer first-aiders. Educators, doctors, teachers … They organize accommodation and visas. And they pack the emergency kit.

“There are juggling balls in there, there are skipping ropes, juggling cloths, a swing canvas, so a play parachute, but there are also watercolors and brushes, there are modeling wax … What else is there in there? Crayons, blackboard chalk … “

“And then you end up at the airport and take off. It’s easy.”

Prevent the worst for children

It is not a question of emergency medical aid, emergency pedagogues are on duty here. After hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, they want to avoid the worst for children in a few days: trauma, serious psychological consequences. Lukas Mall is a social worker, he now heads the emergency pedagogy service within the association “Friends of Waldorf education”. Fiona Bay is a nurse and worked for Doctors Without Borders, so she knows both sides: conventional emergency aid and that of the Waldorf.

“When I was in South Sudan, for example, we had a lot of kids lounging around the hospital and having nothing to do. I thought it would be so good if we could work with them on the emergency pedagogy. “

2006: A festival for young people takes place in Stuttgart. A group from Lebanon also came. But the journey ends dramatically.

“For the Israeli army, the matter is clear: it is fighting against the militant Hezbollah in Lebanon …”

War broke out in the Lebanese homeland of young people. Professor Waldorf Bernd Ruf decides to support young people in Lebanon.

“Since he is also a specialist educator, it dawned on him quite quickly at the time: if you give these children psychotrauma support now, at the beginning, you can reach a relatively large number with relatively little effort,” explains Lukas Mall. .

Ruf gathers a team: therapists, educators, pediatrician – and once again goes to the crisis zone.

Volunteer rescuers around the world

The organization now has permanent employees; it is funded by private donations, large donation organizations such as Aktion Deutschland Hilft and project funding. Your volunteer rescuers travel all over the world: in northern Iraq, in the Gaza Strip, in Latin America.

In some places local employees continue to work longer, for example in Brazil. Reinaldo Nascimento is a physical education teacher and curative educator in Sao Paulo. His first mission for emergency educators was in a refugee camp in Kenya.

“And it was like this: for the little children, there was something like a little Waldorf kindergarten, they stayed with the early childhood educators all the time. And we made an agreement with the older ones: they played music with me for an hour, then they were allowed to do crafts, for example, then again to music, then again to music. eurythmy. “

Painting, creating something with the hands, movement, circus education … It is about structuring children in a chaotic environment. This is, they point out, the big difference to the open aid offers of other organizations, where children come and go when they want.

“At first it was very… ‘Hey, you come here to sing with us…’ They always ask for cookies, for example. But at one point even a lot of parents came to see us: ‘ My children are sleeping better, my children have stopped going to bed My child is not hitting my other child. ‘It was a really good comeback. “

Influence of anthroposophy

What influence does Waldorf education have in this? The esoteric doctrine of man and the universe called “anthroposophy”, which is repeatedly criticized? Where do we speak of the “physical body”, the “etheric body” and the “astral body”?

“Even though we don’t mention those names: you just say, you know, trauma can affect the bones. It’s the physical body. Or they say the trauma can affect you in such a way that you can’t sleep properly anymore. , can no longer eat properly, can no longer think correctly. And it is not called the etheric body, but the principle is the same. “

It is about the point of view on the people, they stress, not about a transfer of ideology. The work on the spot seems to be a practical help for the children anyway, the theoretical substructure does not play a direct role.

Donor organizations such as UN Refugee Aid and Aktion Mensch refer to their strict rules when reviewing funded projects – issues with emergency educators are apparently not known there.

Critic of Waldorf Education at Annual Conference

The annual emergency education conference gives a somewhat different picture. Especially with regard to the Covid crisis, voices have been heard that make emergency pedagogy vulnerable: criticism of vaccination, a technological skepticism that has been widespread among Waldorf educators for decades …

Fiona Bay and Lukas Mall on this:

“Here are two people who had to swallow at many points in the conference. It’s always an individual decision of the person what to say and what not to say. And where do I start to say, ‘No you can’t. say, because it hurts the organization, doesn’t it? ‘”

“I would agree with you that some bold theses have been put forward. But I would also say that we live in a country, thank God, where a lot can still be said. be too short for me in this case. “

The corona crisis presented Waldorf emergency educators with new challenges. In Germany, they have set up a crisis hotline, they advise school teachers who have to deal with young people at risk of suicide. And they are even still active abroad.

“So far we have had big groups, lots of children together, and this is no longer possible. That is why we have started working only in small groups and with individual families in Lebanon year round. last after the Beirut explosion. “

In Brazil, with Reinaldo Nascimento, the corona crisis fundamentally changed emergency aid. Many people have lost their jobs, they are starving, and so emergency educators have organized food and hygiene items – quite non-educational, but at least as important.