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Sustainability Report 2015 – Cultural Life
“Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.”
SEKEMs cultural year 2015 had a unique start: DUNDU, a gigantic mannequin that is performing on stages all over the world visited SEKEM and brought great joy to SEKEM co-workers, students and pupils. DUNDU came already for the second time with its inventors Stefan Charisius and Tobias Husemann, who are friends of SEKEM since many years.
In fact, many friends visited SEKEM during the past year, contributing to SEKEMs cultural life. One of those was Dr. Bruno Sandkühler, a German expert for the ancient Egyptian culture and one of SEKEMs longstanding supporters and friends. Dr. Sandkühler did not only held lectures for the students at Heliopolis University but also organized excursions with them and told pupils at SEKEM School exciting stories about the popular ancient Egyptian culture that is located right in front of their homes.
“We are all different from each other – just like the different notes in a composition. But when they sound together in the proper way, they will create a wonderful symphony.”
Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, SEKEM Founder
Later in the year, SEKEM Community could enjoy beautiful tones from the musician couple Friedgard and Rudolf Gleissner. The successful pianist and cellist were invited by the German SEKEM Friends Association and gave plenty of concerts during their stay in all SEKEM institutions.
Actually, the European SEKEM Friends Associations play an important role in supporting SEKEMs cultural and educational activities. The Austrian SEKEM Friends, for instance supported two students from the Engineering department of Heliopolis University by organizing an internship for them at Technical University Graz in August 2015 and introducing them via different activities to the Austrian culture. The work of SEKEM Austria was portrayed in a 14-minutes featured film made by the filmmaker Roman Pachernegg and the artist Jasmine Wagner, who count to the SEKEM guests of 2015 themselves.
“In Egypt, speech always played a significant role. Egyptians love poetry and have a great talent for acting.”
Dorothea Walter, Artist for Speech & Acting
Empower Young People to Become Champions of Sustainable and Holistic Development
An essential part of SEKEMs and the Heliopolis University’s cultural activities is included into the so called Core Program. Co-workers and students regularly attend, for example Eurythmy lessons, painting sessions, language courses or even theater playing. This shall strengthen the individual development, capacity for innovation and social responsibility.
“We laughed and had fun as if we were a family or good friends and we realized that we can only be successful if we stand together.”
Noha Hussein, SEKEM Co-Worker
Thus, students, pupils and co-workers performed “Hulm” (Arabic for dream), a staging that thematized the differences and commonalities of the oriental and occidental cultures by introducing selected works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and comparing them with different Arabic literature genres.
Another elaborate collaboration in 2015 was the Eurythmy performance “The River of Eternity”, which was presented on the occasion of SEKEMs 38th anniversary celebration in autumn. HU-students sang and acted, pupils of SEKEMs Vocational Training Center contributed and even young pupils and children from SEKEMs Kindergarten participated in the impressive performance.
While the yearly SEKEM Autumn Festival was characterized by different dance performances the second regular big SEKEM celebration, SEKEMs Spring Festival, fascinated by an enriching musical program. Both festivals are taking place every year with all SEKEM co-workers and guests from all over the world. In autumn SEKEM celebrated 38 years of Sustainable Development and at the end of March Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish’s 78th birthday was recognized.
Preparing Young People for the Challenges of the Future
SEKEMs holistic cultural approach, focused in 2015 especially to the youngest generation. The Heliopolis University started to integrate the Children’s University, a program that is aiming to increase the interest of children in different disciplines including science, technology, humanities and arts. This shall help the young generations to understand how their knowledge and skills overlap and interlock with others. Since summer 2015, children from the ages of 16 to 18 regularly visit the Heliopolis University on weekends and in their holidays, and get engaged to the university environment by attending interactive classes under the supervision of teachers and university professors in subjects like water, energy, health, biodiversity, arts and humanities. The Center of Excellence of Heliopolis University is developing these activities related to the context of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
“It is very important to not only provide teachers with the pedagogical tools to implement activities, but also with an understanding of the benefits of using such strategies in the classroom and an opportunity to discuss the new pedagogical approaches with colleagues.”
Mohamed Anwar, SEKEM Co-Worker
Education for Sustainable Development means, including key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning; for example climate change, biodiversity, poverty reduction and sustainable consumption. It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners and teachers to change their behavior and take action towards sustainable development. SEKEM Development Foundation and the HU’s Center of Excellence initiated in this regards the EduCamp-project some years ago that was mainly about creating resource kits, which provide comprehensive manuals for activities to promote ESD, and giving trainings about the right implementation.
In 2015, EduCamp II was successfully finalized. The extension of the first EduCamp project now had a special focus on improving education in slum areas in Egypt.
Also SEKEMs Vocational Training Center (VTC) extended its activities in different sectors in 2015. Hence, the first internationally certified training for welders was initiated. In cooperation with SEKEM Energy and the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), young people can be trained now for the growing challenges of modern methods of metal processing. One huge benefit in SEKEMs training for welders is a specification in the field of renewable energy technologies, which will strongly support the installation of further solar systems.
Moreover, the VTC benefited from women’s power in various aspects. Four female students joined the electrical engineering department, which is also running under the supervision of a woman. Probably an outcome of the Girls’ Day that was for the first time celebrated in SEKEM School. On the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2015 the VTC opened its doors for female pupils of SEKEM School to offer them insights to the different technical professions that are traditionally occupied by men in Egypt. In addition to those activities a celebration took place where the whole community of the SEKEM school attended. Different women, even two guests from outside, a stewardess and a woman working as plumber, spoke about their career experience to encourage the female pupils and in the same time raise awareness among all pupils about the meaning of gender equality.
Also SEKEMs Medical Center contributed to the successful Girls’ Day. Committed nurses, who exemplary manage their working and private life were telling about their experiences in front of the audience and encouraged young women to choose a job that fulfills them for instance by supporting a healthy Egyptian society. One of them was Ola Hussein, who is working in SEKEMs Medical Center since more than 9 years and benefits from the childcare institution.
“I wish the Egyptian society would value arts with all its types, just like it happens in SEKEM. I am sure it would have a great impact.”
Hamada Shousha, Arts Professor at Heliopolis University
Last but not least, like in the previous years, SEKEM continuous supported its co-workers with regular trainings and meetings in regards to different topics. Every Sunday morning the employees of SEKEMs Head Office meet Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, and sometimes guests from outside, to discuss SEKEMs vision, sustainable development or the current development in the world. Each meeting starts with a cultural performance and includes an holistic way of commenting. The staff of Heliopolis University has a similar meeting that is focusing more on pedagogics.
Besides, every Monday Heliopolis University organizes the so-called Monday Forum that offers artistic performances to students and employees of SEKEMs Head Office.
Likewise, SEKEMs contracted farmers that are located all over Egypt cultivating land with Biodynamic methods, receive regular trainings and continued education by introducing them to new techniques or offering cultural courses. In December, SEKEM farmers in Beheira received a comprehensive training regarding new advances in biological pest control, bio fertilization and an innovative technique in clean energy extraction, a modern Biogas unit.
“I wouldn’t know that SEKEM is that huge unless I attended this orientation program and watched every single detail of it. I could also make new friendships with my colleagues from different departments.”
Noha Hussein, SEKEM Co-Worker about her Orientation Days at SEKEM
The continuous personal development strategy, which SEKEM is adopting within its holistic approach starts with the co-workers from the beginning of their engagement with SEKEM. Since 2015 new co-workers join a four-days orientation program in order to get to know SEKEMs activities, vision and mission. The newcomers receive lectures from the managers of each of SEKEMs companies and make their first artistic experiences with SEKEM for instance by doing eurythmy or painting courses.