I had heard a lot about Popular Education and Art Educating* and its success in work with children, as well as with the kids inside each of us. Likewise, how important it can be for us adults to achieve more horizontal ways of communicating and understanding each other.
Nonetheless, all of that was always very abstract to me until I came upon a project here in Havana called El Trencito (The Little Train).
El Trencito, an initiative that has been active for nearly 15 years, has allowed two generations to be equipped with the tools necessary for asking themselves how they are behaving for the good of themselves and others, and what is their place in the present moment of this country where they wish to live and create their family.
This project welcomes a group of children at the end of every week into the house of its creators, Yadira and Ernesto, who began this social collaboration as a young married couple with a son on the way (they now have two children).
With the desire to give love, which they provide through games organized week after week with children from their neighborhood who are willing to participate, their effort has succeeded at becoming a model throughout the city.
This space for playing games defends the principle of non-competitiveness in the face of a reality that puts educational pressures on children to adopt attitudes toward “winning” that run counter to equality.
On a daily basis, the Cuban child faces the demand of competitiveness that generates social aggression between individuals. This is also due to the absence of a spirit of solidarity that was undermined to a great degree by the economic crisis of the 1990s. No other institutional initiative has appeared to confront this circumstance as it is reflected in children’s games.
After children’s first time experiencing El Trencito, they generally don’t stop “getting on board.” They return weekly to participate in non-competitive games involving drawing or taking part in theatrical creations based on their own ideas, sensations or perceptions – all with lots of laughter and joy provided from coming together to play every Sunday.
This year in the Critical Observatory, we again had the opportunity to play with children; this time with kids from the town of San Jose de los Lajas, where the Arte Educando event was carried out thanks to the El Trencito project.
In addition to enjoying a video on the normal activities of the initiative, it energized me to deal with the other difficult day-to-day difficulties. This all made me feel more capable of listening, tolerating and respecting others.
*Arte Educando (Art Educating) is an annual event, carried out in Cuba, in which one of its principles is to defend non-competitiveness in education and which has had invited other initiatives with the same objective from other parts of the Americas.