Walking up the stairs already out of breath when half way, everything is still so familiar. A year ago I left EduMais after being an intern for half a year. Now I am back, as Chairwoman of the EduMais Foundation, helping out again. The stairs haven’t changed a thing, the sounds neither. When I get to the top of the stairs things have changed.
The military colours the streets green a few days a week with their presence. Something that was unthinkable a year ago. They walk up, nose and mouth covered, helmet and bullet proof vest on to protect themselves. They stand in the streets and stop the mothers who are bringing their children to school, they stop the fathers that are heading out to work and they stop the volunteers who are walking in or out. Asking them to open their bags and checking the insides. Meanwhile their machine guns are hanging close to them. The vibes of the favela have changed, the peace seems to have disappeared.
I cross the street, walk through the gate and step into a renewed EduMais´s classroom. Colourful chairs brighten up the room and the classes are being prepared. It is Tuesday and in one afternoon over 100 children walk in and out. They sit down, raise their hand and their English is clearly on a higher level. I get spontaneous replies in English, their pronunciation is so much better and their focus is on point. Something that was on lots of days unthinkable a year ago. The positive discipline shows off in a major way. No major interruptions needed, no interventions with the whole class. The children are smiling, listening and learning.
While I am observing it all I am blown away. The contrast couldn’t have been bigger. In a community that seems to be getting worse and worse these children bloom. They bloom by the education provided to them. It feels like all the peace that has left the streets is in the classroom.
The situation outside makes it more difficult for us to do our work. The school closes earlier due to the military entering and every time we want to be present at the after-school program or soccer training we have to see if we can make our way into the community. The thing that no one forgets at EduMais is that in these times our presence is so important. In times without peace, we are there. Our volunteers give them piles of love, full attention is being paid to educate them and the children are blessed with resilience to deal with whatever comes their way. This is the magic combination that makes their talents and skills grow. I am hoping to keep seeing them bloom every time I walk up those stairs for the rest of my life.