October 2019

Bethlehem. The non-formal education to support hope

It is the second year that the volunteers of the Association of Educators Without Borders (ESF) collaborate with the Association pro Terra Sancta, bringing educational and training activities to some of the social realities of Bethlehem. Founded in 2005 in Milan with the aim of training educators to intervene in contexts of poverty and marginality, this non-profit organization runs shelters for children and adolescents in situations of social hardship and carries out projects for the training of educators and social workers who work in the field of education. As in Bethlehem, where this month the ESF volunteers are carrying out educational workshops set up within the nursery, the nursing home and the day center for the elderly of the Charitable Society of Antoniana. Within the kindergarten the volunteers are building together with the teachers a space dedicated to educational activities with the aim of working on the skills and abilities of children, for example, with the use of stories children are guided to gain experience with a series of creative activities. Instead, the elderly of the center are offered manual and artistic workshops designed according to the abilities and the cognitive and motor difficulties of the structure’s guests.

Precisely because the specificity of educators without frontiers is that of formation, last year together with the Association pro Terra sancta a training was proposed to 35 teachers from the Holy Land School of Bethlehem by the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land. A group of these professors in June 2018 also had the opportunity to participate in a training course in Italy at the headquarters of Educators Without Borders in Milan with the head of the formation of the association Gabriella Ballarini and the coordinator Cristina Mazza. “The training proposed on the spot – Benedetta, tutor of the ESF volunteers’ educational team in Bethlehem tells us – was not theoretical, but wanted to become part of non-formal education using theatrical, artistic and educational writing exercises to work on issues concerning the teaching profession: the relationship with students, group sharing, conflict mediation, cooperative learning and classroom management “. In these weeks instead the volunteers have recently started a series of training meetings with the operators and teachers of the Casa del Fanciullo, a Franciscan welcome home for minors a few steps from the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, now run by Father Fadi Azar, OFM.

In a context like Bethlehem, focusing on education and training means embracing a very large educational challenge: the value of this intervention and this proposal is expressed precisely in building training programs that can help teachers, educators and social workers who work daily on the field. “It is not a question of coming to teach or propose only a model of work different from ours – Benedetta explains – but to be an opportunity, to be facilitators where the activities we build together can make people reflect on awareness and importance of educational work and on how to grow more and more and improve professionally “.

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