As I write this, I am sitting in a funky hostel in Cali, Colombia…
When I arrived this afternoon, my eyes got caught up by a dozen bright coloured string on the floor. Next to them, two girls seemed really focused on making cool looking objects. I sit next to them on the floor, silent for a few minutes. I ask a girl with olive skin and deep green eyes what she is doing. She tells me this is a Mexican tradition. These objects are made for children, as a blessing. “Each one is different”, she says, “and each one has its own story”. I must seem very interested because, as I got mesmerized by the colours, she continues: “I learned how to make them in the ‘casa madre’ at the botanical garden of Medellin”. There, she says, indigenous people shared with her their amazing knowledge. “The house had a fire in the middle. It had to be kept alive always, they explained, because it is the heart of the house”. Around this fire, she learned ancient wisdom, and heard important stories. She tells me the house was a big point of reference for her.
The house has closed down now. The botanic garden changed administration, she explains. ‘But I am left with this knowledge. And I love making these. To me, making them is the ‘purest form to give voice to the subconscious’. While I try to understand what that must mean to her, Caterina asks me which of the dozen mandalas on the floor has caught my attention. I pick an orange, red and, purple mandala. It reminds me of sunsets, and it looks like it would look good in my house-to-be. Warmly shaking my hand, the girl introduces herself as Caterina. Then she continues: ‘ah, you know, we are one, and everything is interconnected. Our actions impact others much more than we think’. Pointing to the purple star in the middle, she adds: ‘this will remind you of that’.
We sit there chatting on the floor for twenty minutes or so. I do the listening and she was speakings (although her words seemed more like dancing). Before I leave, I asked Caterina : how old she is.are you? ‘17’, she says, ‘and I am just at the beginning’, she adds with a degree of some sort of solemnity.
Wow. Her words captivate me, They tickle my heart, and different parts of my brain – but lightly. I listened to her like a student lost in the best class ever. I was in the class of ‘Caterina’s view of the world’. It was a world that was so different from mine, but that felt so true. It felt like eating papaya during my first week in Colombia: the taste catches me off guard, the colour is bright, it melts in my mouth, and I know it is doing me good.
I’d like to start 2016 by reminding ourselves that, as an organization, Recrear practices the art of listening to young people. Humbly. We practice the art of getting blown away by the wisdom, vision and power that we all have when we listen to ourselves and each others.
Thinking back on our progress always feels like getting tipsy on memories and reflections.
Recrear is growing. This year, we have reorganized our structure, become more serious about our financial plans, and developed our research approach even more. But beyond all of this, looking back over our past year of work, I want to remind all of us that we are primarily engaged in in the art of learning from young people. We believe that when we listen to others with curiosity and care, we can transform.
Thank you for sharing our ride and our reflections.