New year, New life. But when we talk about Project Kids, new year means different continent.
I land in another continent with Project Kids (know how they can support in the Projects section / Kids project)
This time I left Far East Japan and landed in Latin America, more precisely in Colombia.
In the last chronicle I spoke about losses. I have shared one activity for adults and another for children, so that we can all develop emotional skills to deal with loss. Today, taking advantage of the new year and all the resolutions that it involves I focus in change.
Latin America, and in this case Colombia, appears in this project for several reasons.
The first is that the idea is to create an emotional tool KIT for families, enriched with children’s tips, children´s from contexts that required them to improve certain emotional competencies.
The second reason is related to numbers. The Gallup Institute shared a study that shows that this continent has the largest register of pleasurable emotions experienced in everyday life. Colombia is in second place (I dont resist sharing a curiosity about this study, the fact that Afghanistan has highest rate of laughter given each day – but today we will not go there).
The third and more focused reason is that, besides being on the list of countries with the greatest register of pleasurable emotions, Colombia is also the country with the largest number of internally displaced people in the world due to conflicts. I would say that these facts transform Colombia into a true incubator of change managers.
With a population of 48 million in 2014 the records showed that about 5.4 million people had been forced to leave their homes and change their lives due to conflicts.
The nearly 50 years of instability and violence caused by paramilitaries by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – F.A.R.C. – and the drug cartels were at the bottom of these numbers. If I say that the country’s biggest narco-trafficker, Pablo Escobar, died only in 1993 and the 67th peace agreement between the FARC and the government was only approved in 2016, I can say that this past is still very much present in the Colombian day to day life. And I feel that I only realized this when I met Jose.
José is an 87-year-old hunter and accept the challenge of taking me to the village where I had to interview children. Along our way he told me that he was Pablo Escobar’s private hunter. Whenever Pablo visited that bush José was the one that hunted for his men “although he had his hands with blood, he had a great soul. We need more people with souls, “shared José.
The typical Colombian is the one who is born in Bogotá, takes his parents and moves to La Guajira, spends some years in Guatapé with his wife, of course. He lives and have children in Quibdó, but his current tax address is with Leticía.
Meringue, salsa, religion and family are essential to carry on and to deal with all the life changes.
Without comparison, but with many similarities, we can see how Colombia can add value to Portugal, especially in what concerns to “reinvent”, change, innovate, without breaking with values or tradition.
Portugal, is one of the oldest countries in Europe, with a strong culture of tradition and religious rituals difficult to break through. Strong mentalities, with absolute certainties, conservative and afraid to change. However we are also a significant receptor of migratory populations, from African countries, Brazil, Ukraine and even China. And there are more than five million Portuguese spread around the world. This fact shows us that we should and can develop better change management skills.
In addition, we live in a world that demands a constant reinvention of ourselves, our sources of income, our family models, our strategies, concepts and prejudices. A world where change is the rule and not the exception.
I believe that what Colombia has to show us is essentially its capacity for change, keeping its values of worship untouchable: the Catholic Church, the sense of family and hospitality.
This has shown me that after all, changing, innovating, daring to be different, does not mean loss of identity, a break in values or tradition. On the contrary, innovating, trying to do differently, can bring to a culture a practical dimension, of humanity and empathy for others, more genuine and liberating relationships and less prejudice.
In times, a Portuguese friend told me that every 10 years he changed his profession. He had been a cook, a photographer, and now he was preparing to take the nursing course. In fact these life paths are not common in Portugal and can even be judged as something “without direction”, “without career”. Social pressure can be of such a heavy order that they are even discouraged.
As soon as I arrived in Bogotá I met many people living their sixth / seventh life.
I admit that I always had a great admiration for those who are able to use change to grow and develop as Human Beings.
Mama Gloria, 58, Colombian, with a brilliant look and easy laughter, after a disastrous marriage (but who gave her 4 beautiful children) decided to ask for a divorce, to leave Bogotá and to be based in Guatapé. From his home he made a small local lodging. He told me that after years of solitude and isolation in marriage, he longed to know the world, to know how to live differently. Since he was terrified of flying, the best way would be to have the world come to his house.
In fact, in an accommodation with only 8 beds, sometimes it had 8 different nationalities. He told me that he had not felt so well in a long time, that it had been the most drastic change of his life, a change that had brought him more resistance and fear, but to what more self-realization and honesty he had achieved.
Sónia, a 47-year-old music teacher, also marked me for her change. She was the seventh wife of a family of 8 sisters born in a village near Putumayo. The region of Putumayo is one of the regions that still suffers from insecurity due to narco-traffic. About 2 years ago, Sonia, decided to leave Mocoa and to be based in the middle of the mountain of Sierra Nevada, in a land of 1 hectare inherited by its daughter. Sonia has always believed that life can be of more personal and spiritual growth, but for this it has to be done in community with others.
So he decided to build a small hut (bamboo and plastic) on the ground and start planting coffee. Even without having a true agricultural knowledge, he decides to make his small house available to travelers interested in collaborating with the new coffee production. I know that in 2 years, Sónia has a cabin with more than 10 hammocks to sleep in and is often crowded. Volunteers help her take care of her coffee. During the days I was there interviewing children, I had the privilege to start the morning with the best coffee in the world. The coffee of the Estancia Madre Terra was made by one of the women with one of the most accomplished smiles I have ever known, that of Sonia.
All changes begin with an “urgency,” an urgent need to change. They all carry with them emotions, some pleasurable others difficult.
While pleasures are usually well accepted, the difficult ones are tended to be rejected. Because of this, changes bring so many challenges to those who live them.
Therefore, because we are men of habits and comfort, I decided to include this dimension in the interviews with children.
What have you learned from a change you had in your life?
The 7-year-old Japanese, like her 6-year-old cousin, said it was really important to help other people that when we do, we stop thinking about our problem and feel better about the changes. Shizuku (5 years old) argued against saying that helping others helped, but asking for help from an adult could also be a good idea.
Marta and Diogo, Portuguese brothers aged 5 and 7, both said that it was best not to be alone. Play with the cousins. They said that with the divorce of the Parents began to stay in the house of the cousins and today it seems that instead of two brothers, they are 5.
In Colombia, Javier, 6, shared that in these moments he is very angry, but usually prays, and realizes that God hears when he stops being angry, he can stop crying and start solving things.
Simona, 9, told me that it cost her a lot when she lost her journal, but one thing she learned from this change was that she had an opportunity to renew it and create a new way of registering her things.
The only five-year-old Julia advises her to stop drinking so much coffee and to start drinking tea. It costs less and it’s easier to stop crying.
Guga, 7, said the best thing to let us be afraid when things change is to have a dog. “When I was without my grandmother every day I would go to the garden, play with my dog until I got used to the idea that he would not come back.”
Usually when one puts the hypothesis that a change is approaching, apprehension, anxiety, or fear, are the first emotions to emerge. Faced with change, there is a tendency to resist in order to try to preserve the old patterns, forms of thought and action. If it is a new condition, it may require new strategies. During a period (and this varies from person to person) the tendency will be to negotiate, that is, I try to use my old strategies, I see if they work, I try to readjust them, and I feel bad about the readjustment I have to make an adult always feels that he must know how to do everything, and this type of flexibility is often felt as a test of his performance and therefore it is a stadium with many emotions such as fear, low self-esteem, feeling of “not being good enough” , doubts and insecurities regarding the future). After this moment we enter into an acceptance phase “okay, this is different, but it does not have to be worse” and soon afterwards there is usually a creative exploration phase, where one begins to try to do things differently, without this bring difficult emotions. On the contrary, it often brings a feeling of “This can even be fun”, “I am capable” until the change eventually sets in.
Here is a playful activity that we can do at home and that can help develop some skills.
Activity “A recipe book for the changes”
In this activity you will create a cookbook to deal with changes.
You must have a book with blank sheets. Drawing material and collages
The idea is that the family identifies moments of change, situations that the family has passed and have demanded change. Then, each one must identify personal situations where they felt a change, or that they had to change. Everyone must identify at least 1 situation.
After a list of changes, everyone should write and illustrate at least one recipe for emotional management:
A Recipe able to soothe the heart and help you feel better with this change.
A recipe able to calm the thoughts that came with the change, help you have quiet thoughts, without worries.
A recipe that can reduce the physical reactions we normally feel with the changes, The knots in the belly or the malaise that you feel in the body, and that can help you sleep well every night.
Good changes for 2018