The SEKEM Friends Association from Germany supports together with the city Stuttgart an art and culture project of the Freie Hochschule (independent academy) Stuttgart. In this context, 17 students visited the SEKEM Initiative in June and set the cornerstone for future cooperation.
“The SEKEM visit has encouraged us to realize visions even if they seem to be impossible”, this is how the students summarize their impressions in their final report. Besides, getting to know SEKEM and attending cultural activities there was the concrete project of building a climbing frame for the SEKEM School. Together with SEKEM teachers this project has been successfully implemented. “During the work we had the possibility for an intensive exchange and could learn a lot from each other”, says one of the participants. “Our students and the SEKEM teachers showed a lot of ambition, enormous creative power and high artistic and technical competence. Because of the heat some of them came to the limits of their capacity. But they realized the project with tireless efforts and within a great social atmosphere”, says Ulrike Hans, a lecturer at the Freie Hochschule Stuttgart, who accompanied the SEKEM exchange.
Besides the practical cooperation, the German students and the Egyptian teachers did artistic activities together. Hence, they sang Arabic and English songs for the SEKEM employees and received huge applause and many compliments: “Some listeners told us afterwards that they have never heard the famous Arabic song that we sang interpreted in such a beautiful way as we did it”, the SEKEM guests gladly tell.
Music and collective work connects people and culture
Of course, a SEKEM visit always includes a comprehensive farm tour to see the different companies and institutions of the SEKEM Initiative. Here, some of the prospective teachers decided to work in SEKEMs Kindergarten. Special attention was given to the fact that mothers, who are working in SEKEM come to the nursery during their working hours to breastfeed their babies. “The child care workers do a great development work here and treat the children in a very loving and caring way”, one of the participating students says.
Visiting the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development (HU) also made a great impression on the students. “In the middle of Cairo, a very dusty and crowded city, the university is like a green oasis. The campus shines between the Egyptian metropolis-gray in bright green”, report the students of Stuttgart. “Cairo is a very dirty city and the waste is just thrown on the streets. On the Heliopolis University’s campus there is no dirt at all. At every turn you can find three colorful garbage cans, where the waste is separated.”
Especially the Core Program at HU impressed the prospective Waldorf teachers. The Core Program is a mandatory additional module that teaches the HU-students in arts, philosophy or social science. Thereby the individual and holistic development of the young people and innovative thinking shall be strengthened. “We live in a generation that shows us every day that it is time to make a change. Be it the environment, education or in politics – in many sectors there is no more time to waste. Heliopolis University recognizes the challenges of today and the students think together on how environment and people can be protected and how to create the future. That was very impressive”, the students write in their final report.
Realizing challenges and taking initiative
The visitors also talked with Helmy Abouleish, CEO of SEKEM, about the challenges of Egypt. He told them about Egypt’s water scarcity, the impacts of climate change or the increasing desertification (see series of articles about the challenges that Egypt is facing). Then, he drew attention to biodynamic agriculture, which SEKEM is based on and that offers solutions to many challenges of today. The reality of these problems became visibly when the students visited the Egyptian town Belbeis or when driving to the pyramids. “We met people on donkey carts and saw very skinny cows –garbage at every roadside”, says a student. “Slowly we realized how poor the people are. Many SEKEM students and teachers come from these conditions and experience every day the huge contrast when entering the clean SEKEM Farm that they work on. ”
The project was very successful and further plans for cooperation between the Freie Hochschule Stuttgart and the Heliopolis University have been developed. “The wonderful experiences encouraged us to follow up on this project in the coming years”, says Ulrike Hans. Also the German SEKEM Friends Association is glad about the great positive feedback and will continue promoting the project and thereby also support the sister-city arrangement between the Egyptian capital Cairo and Stuttgart.