Venezuela: “Arco Iris” preschool is a small seed of hope in a violent suburb
Ofelia is a teacher from Valencia, one of the major industrial city of Venezuela. Colinas de Guacamaya where she lives, is an extreme suburb of the city. Here, other parts of the world, many parents have nowhere to send their children during working hours.
There, criminal rate is very widespread and so it is very dangerous to let without any attention so many children during the day. With the aim to live as an active builder of fraternity, Ofelia decided so to engage herself onto assisting children of her district.
She found “Arcoiris” (Rainbow) preschool directly in the middle of her little garden. There, children are host by the love of their teachers and they are prepared to start as soon as possible the school.
There are about 40 children who come to the kindergarten and their ages range from four to … fourteen! Indeed since, for a whole host reasons unconnected with their own choices, many children do not attend normal school, the decision has been made to offer them the chance to carry on learning within a preschool environment.
Some time ago there was a shootout between the police and the organized crime gang in control of the district. It was not the first time; six people had already been killed. But this time it was right next to the preschool.
Ofelia said, ‘To stop the children being frightened we got them to sing. Then, when their mothers, full of worry and fear, came to collect them I spoke to each of them, trying calm them and explaining that they had to keep control of themselves for their children’s sake.
In a so risky background, Ofelia descovered all the pedagogical valence of the “cube of love”. It is a big coloured cube, with six rules: “Love eachother”, “Love the enemies”, “Be the first to Love”,…
‘The next day – Ofelia said – the children and I cast the “cube of love” and when the face turned up that said “love everyone”, the children asked, “What, gang members too?” and “Even the police?”we answered “Yes, of course!”
We then asked the children to express freely their reflections and what they said was beautiful in its innocence. A four-year-old girl asked that there should be no more guns in the world and a boy asked God to help him love more and to change the hearts of the criminals.’
Another area of work for Arcoiris is the relationship with the parents. It is very important because the children are in the preschool only for a few years and so their experience, however positive and rich in values, is temporary. Their parents, on the other hand, have a long time to form them as persons.
This year the preschool looked at the theme of ‘How can we communicate with our children?’ In the various workshops activities for the parents were run by the teachers themselves, who had generously accepted to spend a whole Sunday dedicated to this. They were aware that they were making a real investment in the future of their students.