by Joyce Gallardo
Out of the complex answer to this poignant question was born El Proyecto Social Q’ewar, where healing could take place in a salutary, respectful, and humane working environment. El Proyecto would become an antidote to the common social ailments of extreme poverty, alcoholism, and malnutrition that plague the small towns and villages in the Province of Quispicanchi, Peru, to which Andahuaylillas, home of the Q’ewar Social Project, belongs. In this harsh survival culture, high in the Andes Mountains 12,000 feet above sea level, families often live in small, windowless, smoke-filled rooms with earthen floors and walls of mud and adobe–rooms that serve as bedroom, kitchen, and yard for the animals.
The therapeutic process of doll making The Project was initiated seven years ago by Peruvian native Julio Herrera Burgos, former high school art and sculpture teacher at the Waldorf School in Lima, Peru and his wife, Evelina Lucila (Lucy) Terrazas, in response to the poverty and homelessness in their community of Andahuaylillas. They started a doll-making workshop in their home and selected women to train to make Waldorf-inspired dolls who were single or homeless mothers without economic support for their families, women who had suffered domestic violence, and young women living in high-risk situations. A therapeutic process was created as four indigenous women made these dolls in their own likeness—beautiful brown-skinned, dark-eyed, black-haired Peruvian dolls, dressed in the typical clothing of their country. The doll making was designed to express the dignity of the human being and thus became a healing activity for the women, who were learning to make the dolls out of their own creativity and imagination. Later on, they would make dolls with blue eyes, red, brown, and blonde hair, and lighter colored skin, as well chocolate-skinned, dark-eyed dolls; the workshop would become a source of multi-ethnic dolls–archetypal images of humankind. For most of these women, this was the first opportunity they had to learn new skills and to express their innate creativity in a humane and respectful working environment that would help them earn money to support their families.
New hope was born, which brought a sense of self-esteem and pride in their work. The traditional indigenous skills of shepherding alpaca and sheep, carding, spinning, plant dyeing, back strap loom weaving, knitting, and embroidery were fostered and honored. The doll makers washed, carded and spun the wool used for dolls’ hair, sweaters, and shoes; they sewed and knitted all the distinctive clothes. Tea-dyed cotton knit gave a warm color to the dolls’ skin. All natural fibers were used and dolls were stuffed with pure sheep’s wool, while the hair was made from alpaca yarn. Hand dyed fibers made from indigenous plants colored the clothing.
The first four dolls made at the Q’ewar Project traveled to the United States with Margret Daniels, who during her 70th birthday trip to Peru met the group and at their request took the dolls back to sell. Friends were very receptive, and JoAnne Dennee, early childhood educator from the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Vermont. travelled to Q’ewar in response to their request for marketing help. At the same time, she committed to later taking up the needs of the children and, eventually, the men. Interest in the dolls grew, and from the small group of four women, Q’ewar has grown since 2002 to employ over 100 families. The dolls are now sold all over the United States and abroad. As the need to build and expand the workshop grew, the Q’ewar Project moved uphill from the village and some of the husbands of the women who were able in construction were hired to help build the new facilities. The Project has become a place of refuge for the more than 125 women, children and men who walk up the steep hill from the village each day and pass through the big green doors to work, study, and play here.
Wawa Munakuy While the doll makers are working in the many-windowed, airy workshops, their young children are cared for at the project’s newly-constructed Waldorf-inspired nursery-kindergarten called Wawa Munakuy (pronounced Wa’wa Moo nah’ koo wee) meaning “for the love of the children” in Quechua, the indigenous language spoken by the women. The beautiful new two-story building was built thanks to increasing doll sales and two generous grants from a Swiss and NJ foundation. The second story of the school will serve as a temporary transitional refuge for women and children suffering from domestic violence and for visiting teachers. Vilma, one of the doll makers, told us, “The Q’ewar Project has helped so many people. Here I know that I can work in a tranquil environment and my children are well cared for. It is not like this in other jobs. I cannot bring children with me to work.” In the afternoon, after-school care is provided, along with tutoring and help with homework.
A spiritual intention The spiritual intention for the founding of the Q’ewar Project—the development of a social initiative based on compassion, brotherhood, respect and love—is imbued with the impulse of Anthroposophy. (1) “We seek to balance out the social injustices that are present in the Peruvian society. In this respect, we recognize the importance of a revitalization of the patterns of the ancestral Quechua culture of community life–the way of “Ayni” (reciprocity) and “Mink’a” (collective work for the greater good of all). The conscious practice of this spiritual intention and the recognition of the importance of “Ayni” and “Mink’a” to community life has fostered a sense of responsibility to the collective goals and to the well being of each other amongst the women and men who work here and the children who play and study here,” Julio told me.
This sense of responsibility to the collective goals and the well being of all amongst the workers and children of the Project was reflected in a later conversation with Vilma, “Julio and Lucy have always told us that we needed to work together like a family and that is why I very proudly call them Papa Julio and Mama Lucy, since I do not have a mother and father. I feel that everyone has to support each other like a family, not only to be concerned for my own family or my own situation. When it rains, it rains for everyone. When the sun shines, it shines for everyone.”
Working with the teachers and the children During the month I spent at the Q’ewar Project in the Spring of 2009 I was immersed in the daily working and challenges of the project. Each day was full and rewarding and brought a myriad of new tasks to accomplish. I had been invited to work with the four teachers of Wawa Munakuy, who are participating in the Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Training in South America. These women, all residents of Andahuaylillas and former public school teachers, were becoming familiar with the Waldorf pedagogy as applied to the education of the young child, but needed guidance in implementing these practices in their daily work with the children. During the beginning years of the Project, mentoring was offered by JoAnne and many activities at Wawa Munakuy were put in place; communication, however, had been encumbered by a language difference and by translators who were not themselves Waldorf teachers.
Monday is ‘bread day’ and the children, with their teachers, prepare and bake in the wood-fired adobe bread oven enough whole wheat bread to feed each family. Wednesday is ‘bathing day’ and the small children are bathed in tubs outdoors under the warmth of the morning sun in mountain spring water that’s been heated by solar energy. A solar-heated hot water bath house for the children, women, and men was installed last year, thanks to a donation from Germany. The caregivers wash and rinse the children with loving, gentle hands and song. Warmly wrapped in fluffy hooded towels, the children, with shining, smiling faces, are rubbed dry sitting beside the wheat field where nodding golden seed heads gaily greet them. Their hair has been shampooed, combed and de-liced, and the little girls’ long, dark hair will be braided by the nimble fingers of the caregivers.
Establishing a healthy rhythm I was struck by the sense of community with which the children were surrounded. Each morning as the younger children came through the big green doors with their mothers, they were greeted by warm smiles and a cheerful “Buenos dias, wawas!” (wawa is the Quechua word for children) from the many workers. This place is like a second home to these little ones, who are one and a half to three and a half years old; their mothers came to work here each day while they were pregnant with the same little ones.
As we worked together with the teachers to establish a healthy rhythm, each morning after greeting the children we would walk through the biodynamic gardens and along the edge of the chacra (corn field) where we collected ears of corn wrapped in dry leaves to make corn dollies, past the peach and avocado trees, stopping to pick flowers, or to examine seed pods that had fallen to the ground, and play in the shade of el arbol grande (the big sheltering tree) in the flower garden that overlooked the terraced wheat field. One morning little Christian, who was just three, dreamily watched the sunlight dancing on the leaves of the tree. He hugged its trunk and discovered that he could pull himself up to a crook where two branches met. There he sat, legs dangling, just two feet off the ground, waving at us and grinning gaily at his accomplishment.
Later, skipping happily up the steep, uneven path to the herb garden, the children carried little baskets in which they would collect chamomile or mint for tea to drink with their hot organic morning meal. The table in the kindergarten was set and decorated with flowers from the garden, the candle was lit, and a simple blessing was sung in Spanish: O, angel mio, guardian tan fino, Noche y dia, tarde y temprano, Llevame a la puerta del cielo, O angel mio.
‘Oh, angel mine, guardian so fine, night and day, early and late, lead me until I reach heaven’s gate, Oh, angel mine.’ followed by a verse:
Tierra, esto tu gracia nos dio, Sol esto tu luz maduro. Sol y tierra bien amados, Nunca sereis olvidados.
‘Earth, who gives to us this food, sun who makes it ripe and good, Sun and Earth you are both well loved, and never will you be forgotten.’
The children ate heartily of the warm food. Shortly after the meal, one of the mothers who was working nearby came in to change her child’s diaper. The two younger children, who were tucked into their little beds in the corner of the room, were soon sleeping peacefully. The older children played indoors and out. Songs and finger games, simple nature crafts, and free play filled the rest of the morning. The mothers appeared at lunch and siesta time, tucked their little ones into mantas and carried them home safely on their backs down the long, steep hill. “Adios! Hasta la tarde!”
The after-school program After lunch and siesta the older children, who attended school in the village, began arriving. Their homework load is a concern for them and for their parents, many of whom are unable to help their children due to their own lack of education. Thus they look to the teachers at Wawa Munakuy for support. Physical activity and purposeful movement before starting homework is encouraged, and carefully thought-out activities enhance gross motor development and balance in the children. Jump rope and circle games are joyful alternatives to sitting behind a desk reading and writing. The children are drawn to the big llama rope spirals which have been laid out on the ground, and walk forward and backward, in and out, through each spiral path. This can be a real challenge for some. A ‘ladder’ of bamboo sticks which has been laid out invites hopping, side-stepping, forward and backward stepping, hopping on one foot. Soon the giggles and laughter of children engaged in purposeful and playful movement fill the courtyard.
We bring the play and movement to a closure with the bean bag toss, when we form a large circle and greet each other in song… “Buenas tardes, Adriana! Buenas tardes, Sra. Joyce! Buenas tardes, Abel! Buenas tardes, Sra. Joyce!” In this toss of the bean bag and the greeting of each other, the child is met in his unique individuality; eye contact is made, and then comes the moment of the recognition of the ‘I’ in the other. This is always a significant moment for the child. Now with light hearts and clear minds the homework can finally begin…
When homework has been done, colorful baskets of wool yarn invite the children to work on knitting projects, some alone, with able fingers, others with help from their teachers, while their mothers skillfully knit doll clothing in the nearby knitting workshop. Knitting is a favorite activity of all the children; the younger ones can finger knit. Finally, a hearty warm snack prepared by the teachers is served.
This afternoon we would celebrate Emanuel’s second birthday with a birthday circle in the patio with all thirty-two children of Wawa Munakuy. Emanuel was glowing, wearing the golden silk birthday cape and gold crown. He was the tiny ‘prince’ who would choose his ‘princess’ as we sang, “Arroz con leche, se quiere casar… Yo soy el principe, el hijo del rey, quiero casarme, pero no encuentro con quien.” “Rice with milk, he wants to marry… I am the prince, the son of the king, I want to marry, but I don’t know with whom…” The ‘prince’ chooses his ‘princess’ and with their teacher, they weave in and out of the circle as we sing “Arroz con leche…” During the month I was there, three joyful birthdays were celebrated at Wawa Munakuy, with crown, cape and birthday circle song, Arroz con Leche, followed by a lovely birthday cake made with sweet corn meal ground from corn from the chacra and decorated with an array of colorful flowers from the garden. With Emanuel’s birthday celebration, the children’s day at Wawa Munakuy has come to a close–it is time to go home.
The mothers are finished with their doll-making activities for the day and come to fetch their children. “Buenas tardes. Hasta manana! “ The children come to each of their teachers to hug them and to say good-bye. So many lovely children to hug! At last, mothers and children weave their way back down the steep, bumpy road to home in the village, filling the oncoming dusk with their lively, happy chatter and laughter.
The Inauguration In between daily pedagogical meetings with the teachers of Wawa Munakuy, weekly meetings with the whole Q’ewar community on the possible economic crisis they would face due to a decrease in doll orders, and weekly meetings with the mothers on Waldorf education, there were the many preparations for the inauguration of the new kindergarten building and the laying of the foundation stone. It took nearly 5,000 hand-made adobe bricks of mud and straw to build this new home, topped with terra cotta roof-tiles, for Wawa Munakuy. The inauguration was a festive occasion, as men, women and children came together in verse, song and dance to give thanks for the completion of this beautiful facility for their children.
Special preparations for La Pachamama Several times weekly, JoAnne and I made and spread preparations for healing the earth in and around the Project with the intention of helping to transform and create new elemental beings who are in the service of Christ through our work. Our further intention was to recognize and show our appreciation for the elementals, the nature spirits, and the Christ in Nature by offering a potentized healing preparation (2) of several special substances: gold, silver, copper, red rose petals, ground corn, silica, sunflower, rose quartz, frankincense, myrrh, cinnabar and aurum hypericum to La Pachamama (Mother Earth). We also made and spread the bio-dynamic Barrel Compost preparation (3) on the gardens and fields of the Project.
Human brotherhood My visit to El Proyecto Social Q’ewar was drawing to a close. There would not be a day after I returned home that I would not remember an experience I had or a child, woman or man with whom I had made a special heart connection–each of them is implanted as a treasure in my soul. It was an honor to live with, to work and play, to laugh and cry with all of the wonderful people of the Project.
What we witnessed here is in the truest sense the human brotherhood of which Rudolf Steiner spoke when he said that human beings have been too long separated and ought to become socialized in brotherhood. He said that when we form a picture of our fellow man and immerse ourselves with real love in that image “we carry within the realm of our soul life something from him, just as in the case of a bodily brother we carry around something through the common blood. This elective affinity as the basis of social life must take the place in this concrete way of the mere blood affinity. This is something that must evolve. It must depend upon the human will to determine how brotherhood shall be awakened among men,”(4)
Through their compassion and love for their fellow human beings, Julio Herrera Burgos and his wife Lucy Terrazas found the courage to ask the question, and in answer to the question, through their unshakeable dedication and Michaelic deeds, have found the will forces to foster and develop human brotherhood at El Proyecto Social Q’ewar in this pueblito Andahuaylillas, tucked quietly away in a peaceful valley of the Andes Mountains of Peru.
The world-wide economic crisis Unfortunately, the Q’ewar Social Project, which needs to be recognized and supported as a valid representation of the Anthroposophical impulse in the world, has deeply felt the effects of the world-wide economic and financial crises. The development of a broader world market for the dolls will be essential in order to bring the Q’ewar Social Project soundly into the future. If you be moved by their story and would like to buy or sell these high-quality dolls, solicit or contribute donations, or have any suggestions, we would be very grateful. Please contact JoAnne Dennee, at HYPERLINK firstname.lastname@example.org or call 802 425 4185.
S’omk’oymanta, s’omk’oyquiman – From my heart to yours.
Joyce Gallardo is an early childhood educator and director of Los Amiguitos, a family day care home, where she works out of the insights of Waldorf early childhood education, offering a kindergarten-nursery program that is enriched by the work of Emmi Pikler. She has worked with children internationally in Ecuador, Mexcio, Nicaragua and Peru. Joyce graduates in August 2009 from the five-year Spacial Dynamics Training Program.
Acknowledgement This article was adapted in part from biographical information about the Q’ewar Project provided by JoAnne Dennee, which comes from seven years of her dedicated work and support of the Project. Her presence during the first two weeks of my visit was invaluable to all aspects of the work there, especially to the inauguration of Wawa Munakuy Nursery Kindergarten and to the pedagogical support that was offered the teachers.
(l) Anthroposophy (also known as Spiritual Science) is the science of the supersensible constitution of man, of the spiritual beings in nature and in the cosmos. It is the necessary complement to natural science. (From What is Anthroposophy? by Otto Frankl-Lundborg, St. George Publications, 1977, p.9).
(2) It was possible to make this potentized healing preparation for the Q’ewar Project thanks to Dr. Basil Williams, who has been working for more than 12 years with these substances to heal the earth. He generously gifted me the minerals, the frankincense and the myrrh for the making of the preparation in Peru.
( 3) Biological-dynamics (bio-dynamics) was first introduced by Rudolf Steiner who said that ideally, the biodynamic farm is a self-sufficient and self-contained ecosystem that can fulfill its needs from within. “Using composts that are enriched with herbal preparations, soil fertility is enhanced; homeopathic treatments are applied to fields in order to make them more healthy; crop rotation is practiced to minimize pests and so as not to deplete the soil, and no synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, or hormones are used. Not only does the biodynamic farmer work with the Earth, he or she also tries to work in harmony with the stars, moon, and other planets and appreciates that these have a bearing on the rhythms of the plants. This awareness imbues the day-to-day work on the farm.”
(From a brochure of the Hawthorne Valley Farm, a Demeter-Certified biodynamic farm in Ghent, NY, called Nurturing the Land that Nurtures Us).
( 4) Steiner, Rudolf. The Challenge of the Times, Spring Valley, NY, Anthroposophic Press, 1941, p. 177-178.