Building International Alliances for Intercultural Education

Alianza Arkana is now building a new alliance with two Swedish organizations – the NGO ‘Asociación Amazónica Sueca’ and the Municipality of Harryda, a governmental organization at local level serving 35,000 people located just outside Gothenburg.

The two organizations are looking to create educational projects at the primary and pre-school level to support Shipibo culture and foster intercultural exchange between Shipibo and Swedish children. The benefit for Shipibo children will be to have access to material resources – such as basic educational materials and computers – and cultural resources in the form of exchange with children from a very different culture, all of which are not normally available to them.

In pursuit of these aims, Alianza Arkana hosted a visit of a delegation of six people from the two Swedish organizations, between November 27th and December 4th 2013.

The purpose of the visit was to identify an educational project at primary and pre-school level in which Swedish and Shipibo children could make contact, communicate via Internet and learn about the others’ way of life and culture.

To this end, Alianza Arkana facilitated visits of the Swedish delegation to two intercultural, bilingual schools we have been working with. The first was the integrated pre-school, primary and secondary school at the semi-rural Shipibo community of Puerto Firmeza – a project which Alianza Arkana has been supporting for three years to help develop a new model of intercultural education.

The second visit was to the pre-school and primary school in Bena Jema, one of the first urban Shipibo communities of around 200 families in Yarinacocha – the indigenous area of Pucallpa – formed by Shipibo families migrating from their rural communities to the city.

The Swedish delegation was impressed by both schools. They decided to work with the school at Bena Jema for practical reasons as the school is within easy reach of the city – which would help facilitate further visits by Swedish teachers – and also would have much easier Internet access, and availability of computers in general—an essential component of the communications plans with the schools in Sweden.

The NGO Asociación Amazónica Sueca (AAS) has been working with the Shipibo for over forty years. Their aim is to foster cultural exchange and mutual understanding by teaching Swedish children about the Shipibo whilst initiating and supporting projects that help sustain the Shipibo culture.

In the eighties, they helped develop an important project called Ametra – an Association of Practitioners of Traditional Medicine – with the aim of helping preserve the detailed knowledge of healers within the Shipibo culture about the wealth of medicinal plants, which traditionally have been used to cure many illnesses.

In this recent visit, AAS were represented by their President and Treasurer. The Municipality of Harryda was represented by four people – a primary school teacher, a coordinator of three kindergarten schools, the overall coordinator of pre-school education in the municipality and the person within the municipality responsible for fundraising for international educational projects.

Once they had decided on the school they wanted to work with, the teachers from Harryda spent much of the rest of their time in Pucallpa visiting the school, observing classes and working out ways with the teachers at the school of how they could develop the project.

The next step will be for a larger group of Swedish teachers to come back to Pucallpa and spend longer with their counterparts at the school in Bena Jema. In the meantime, Alianza Arkana will help provide the liaison between the schools in Harryda and Bena Jema, especially through a volunteer from the German organization Eco-Selva, Rebecca Binswanger, who is working with Alianza Arkana for one year, helping to teach English and art, using recycled materials, three times a week at the primary school in Bena Jema.

Alianza Arkana will also be involved in investigating and helping set up a small computer center, funded by the Swedish organizations and managed by Alianza Arkana, which the teachers and children at Bena Jema can attend in order to communicate directly with children and teachers in Sweden.

Following the visit of Swedish teachers to the school in Bena Jema, it is planned to organize a reciprocal visit, funded by the Swedish municipality, in which Shipibo teachers will visit schools and families in Sweden.

Paul Roberts

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