Tomorrow it´s for real…

It´s been another of those crazy weeks, where on one hand not much seems to happen because I see few tangible results, but on the other I´ve been crazy busy.

Got interviewed at the local radio station, and have two ten minute long programs that will be recorded this coming Wednesday. If the public likes them, I will have my own slot every Saturday morning.

I´ve also prepared a spot that will run for quite some time in exchange for the employees kids to go to Explora this semester. To me it´s a great opportunity, because I´d never pay for those spots, and having kids coming to Explora will only guarantee more kids finding out about it, asking their parents to please enroll them. It´s a win-win situation however way you want to see it.

Thursday I transported the whiteboards all on my own. Don´t ask me how I managed to carry them all the way inside the facilities – I honestly don´t know! They´re really heavy…

I also have mattrasses and cushions, a huge table for arts and crafts and chairs. The hammocks are coming in this week – donated from friends who have enrolled their kids.

Three siblings have received a sponsor that has committed to supporting them for a year (how cool isn´t that!?), and three other kids are on the waiting list.

I´m a little bit nervous about how many kids will find their way to Explora during this month, because numbers are always numbers. I´m trying not to think too much about it and focus more on spreading the word and pulling in the people. After all it´s a brand new project that is starting up, but it should really help that Puerto Escondido is such a small place. Words spread around fast down here.

So, tomorrow it´s for real. I´m inaugurating Explora, the fruit of seven years of intense school entrepreneurship. I can´t wait to see it happening!

 

Starring in a coming documentary on alternative education

Sometimes I´m just like: seriously?! Is this really happening?

That´s the feeling I got when I got to know Bruno Iriarte. Bruno is travelling from Mexico to his home country Argentina in a Volkswagen minibus, visiting all the different projects on alternative education he finds on his way. His goal is to investigate all of them and create a documentary on alternative education in Latin America. (You can like his FB-page here.)

Gemán Doin, the director of the documentary The Forbidden Education, is keeping him up-dated on what projects to visit and what persons to contact. And that´s how Bruno found me and Explora.

Since I don´t have that much time, I told him he could assist one of my sessions with my facilitator team and he gladly accepted.  The cool thing was that it was just the day I was going to explain what exactly an ALC is, and on what foundations it´s built.

Is it enough to say we had an incredible time all of us?

Is it enough to say that Bruno himself experienced a quantum leap in his own thinking?

Is it enough to say that he´s super impressed with the ALC concept, the ideas behind Explora and that he sees me as this rad visionary, unique in Latin America?

No, it´s not enough, because then I was interviewed and filmed and will now be part of his documentary!!!

yo-y-la-kombi

This is a big time woooohoooo for me. I´ve been working on positioning myself as an expert on alternative education in Latin America, but it takes time and I´m still very isolated geographically. But here someone shows up, eager to talk with me about what I think, listening to every word I say like as if they were precious drops of gold.

Again I feel so seen as a person, and appreciated for all that I do. Now Bruno is all about how to get my book translated from Swedish to Spanish. – We need this book in Latin America, he says.

My life is expanding in the most incredible ways lately, and all I can think is: how could it get any better that this?

 

 

Stepping into my power

Lately I have been very concerned with how to pull in the money I need to get the most basic stuff in order for Explora to be able to function on a basic level.

Opening up the kindergarted enabled me to shape up the facilities, but the top floor has been completely empty – and still is.

Since this time, I´m not running a communitarian project I have no one else to rely on in order to make Explora happen. However, since Explora is still a project for the community, I thought I´d be able to pull in support from some of the more resourceful people down here (see blog post on that). So, I shared my ideas with several of them, and got loads of thumbs-ups and cheers. But nothing more.

Since I know furnishing and equipping Explora is nothing in comparision with what I had to do in order to get the kindergarten ready, I have´t felt particularly worried about it. I´ve more been wondering how I want to interpret the lack of physical support.

And here´s my conclusion: 
I feel that the lessons I´ve had to learn when I left my old project in December 2015, have been all about stop hiding and making myself smaller, that it´s time for me to step up and take up my own space.

I´ve had to learn that I´m so much more powerful than I´ve ever dared to express, and that it´s nothing to be ashamed about. That dimming my light only harms me – and others. Since I´m all about empowering others, I´m being incongruent if I don´t dare to fully express my own power. I´m not steeling anyone else´s thunder by doing so. And, more important: I´m no longer misleading people by leading a project but pretending I´m not all that important. 

This time I´fully need to show myself what I´m capable of. I don´t need anyone else to help me pull this off. I have all the qualities Explora needs in order to get started and to function properly. And by doing it all by myself nobody will ever again be able to tell me I don´t know anything about starting up and leading educational projects. 

So this week I decided it was time to act and went about and ordered mattrasses and cushions for the cozy corner. I´ve bought several board games. And this coming week I´m getting art materials and whiteboards. I have a couple of plastic chairs and a table that I don´t use. That will do to begin with.

And suddenly the owner of the house showed up and told me he´d clean the two lots of land that are included in the rent.

Monday 5th I´m opening up the doors to Explora. I´m ready!

 

Creating alliances

This week I had scheduled meetings with the two school directors that I find most accessible here in Puerto Escondido. One runs a highly traditional preschool and primary school. The other is head of the christian school.

I had already met up with them in February to share my project with them. I wanted to test the idea and see how they´d react. Both were positive and said they´d be interested in supporting Explora through sharing posters and flyers with their families when it was time.

The christian director is a really nice guy. He´s quite advanced in his pedagogical thinking, and totally gets the idea of the importance of free, unsupervised play. The school he runs is very traditional, but he can´t do much about it because the foundation that´s behind the school want it to operate in a certain way.

The first time I told him about Explora, he got completely excited about the idea, and I got the same result this time. He gets the intention and the concept, and not only will he visit the facilites this coming week in order to really be able to speak about the project with the parents. He´s also more than interested in sharing my sponsorship program with his chrisitian community in the States. The idea is that they can give grants to the kids at his school to complement their education through Explora.

I feel extremely seen and supported by him, and I think it´s the best alliance I could ever had made. He has more than 100 students at his primary, and I´m thinking that if a fifth of them would enroll in Explora, that would be incredible.

The other director is very nice and open, but not a visionary when it comes to education. It´s still alright because she also sees that there are very few options for kids in the afternoons here in Puerto. She also took some posters and flyers and I know she´ll promote Explora with her families, but maybe not with the same zest as the christian director. She also has more than 100 students, and I know several of them would be more than interested in what Explora has to offer.

The cool thing is: everyone seems to think Explora is a terrific idea and are more than willing to share it and spread the words to others. And since I´m not competing with anyone because Explora is a unique concept, it feels really great to be able to create alliances with other directors.

I can feel it boiling underneath the surface

So, I decided to postpone the start of my ALC one week and give myself some more time to fix all that needs to be ready. I mean, the most important is there: the structure, my team of facilitators, my ALF-training, the marketing materials, great support – but there´s still plenty of stuff that needs to be done before I can let the kids in.

I started by gathering a small but supportive group of women in order to share the project with them, and tell them what I needed help with. They absolutely loved the idea of Explora, and were so impressed with what I´ve accomplished so far – (also because the meeting was held at the facilities and that, my friends, is a place I´m very proud of!).

I know they will all contribute in some way, even though I don´t yet know how it will play out.

Then I had a Very Important Meeting with the owner of the local radio channel. I obviously wanted an interview (which is now programmed for the 31st of August), but he unexpectedly offered me promotion time: – I know you can´t afford it, he said, but how about you receiving 2-3 of my employees´kids for free as an interchange. How could I say no to that?!

And then I launched my secret desire: – I´ve been thinking, I said. Most families don´t know much about childraising and education, and I consider myself an expert on both themes. Wouldn´t you be interested in letting me have a weekly radio show with the goal to support parents and teach them things they might need?

– You mean, as a service for the community? he asked.

– Yes, something like that, I answered. I can talk around different themes and they could call in and have their questions answered.

– I really like that idea, said the director of the only radio station in Puerto Escondido, and promised we´d explore the possibility further when I got back for the interview.

It´s like: TADAAAAA!!! I´ve been thinking about this possisbility for quite some time now. I feel that I really want to position myself as The Expert on these themes, where I live. I know I already am, but I want people to know about it too. Being Scandinavian I was raised with the idea that it´s really presomptuous to think that I could do something better than someone else, so it completely clashes with my cultural upbringing. But honestly, I don´t care. I no longer live in Sweden and I´ve come to love stepping out of my comfort zone.

So, this is what I´ve achieved this week. On one hand, I still don´t have any physical evidence of the energy moving around Explora. No enrolled kids, no furniture or materials. But I can feel it boiling underneath the surface, like as if it´s mysteriously all coming together. I mean my own radio show! How could it get any better than that?

 

Exploring the possibilities for support

Ever since I decided I´d start up an ALC, I´ve been freaked out by the fact that this time I´m on my own.

Now, I want this to be very clear: I prefer working with a team. But if I can´t have an outstanding team that meet my standards of high-achievements and mutual support and respect, I prefer doing it alone.

But that doesn´t mean I´m totally fine with the situation either. It´s a huge repsonsibility and I´m afraid I might not have all the energy that it takes. It feels lonely and scary not having a team around me.

I´ve been thinking a lot on how to make Explora happen without a) killing myself in the process and b) without any start-up money.

Thanks to my newly opened kindergarten I´ve been able to install electricity and plumbing, so that part is taken care of. But now I need to:

  1. Clean the two lots next to the house (3000-4000 m2 – loads of land!)
  2. Get furniture, mattrasses and cushions for the cozy room,
  3. and hammocks for the terrace,
  4. plus, able and chairs for the art room.
  5. And oh, yes, art materials of course, and
  6. some nice books and fun board games.
  7. Shelves I need too.
  8. And doors for the bathrooms.
  9. Whiteboards would be cool even though I can do without.

The thing is, I have absolutely no money for this – at least not today.

But, even though Explora isn´t a communitarian project,  it definitely is a project for the Puerto Escondido community. So, my intention is to gather a group of resoursceful people this week, and simply ask them to help me pull this through. And there are actually several ways they can support me, like by:

  • Spreading the word and help families find the project in order for me to get the inscriptions rolling.
  • Donating furniture, books, games
  • Lending me their gardeners to can clean up the land
  • Becoming a sponsor of a child that comes from a low-income family
  • Donating money

I hope it´ll work. And if you have any ideas that I haven´t explored yet – please feel free to share them with me!

What have I gotten mysef in to?

Most of the time I just focus. I don´t have time to waste on worrying. You can be a worrier or a warrior, and I generally choose the latter.

But sometimes it comes creeping up on me. The doubts. The anxiety. The worry. What if…?

What if it won´t work?

What if nobody signs up?

What if I´ve misjudged people´s need for something new?

What if I won´t be able to pull in any sponsors?

What if I´m just ending up with a huge deficit?

What if i´m not capable or strong enough?

What if I had been a man instead?

ARRRGH!!!

I hate when the doubts set in. And since I don´t want anyone to know that I too fall into the Fear, I don´t share how I feel. I´m afraid they too will start doubting and that would just make things worse.

But this is a place where I know I can share. Most people won´t even read it (phew!) but those who do might know what to say.

It´s just one of those days…

 

Finding Mexican Facilitators part 2

Starting up an ALC means knowing in advance you won´t be able to pay all of the facilitators, so you need to find creative solutions that makes it a win-win situation for everyone involved.

The third person I thought of, was Flor. Flor is a secondary school teacher who hates the system but who doesn´t have any other viable working option but staying. So her focus is always doing what she can in order to give her students different experiences, trying really hard to make school a more human place (and obviously being sabotaged by many of her co-workers).

I got to know Flor several years ago. She was recommended by a mutual friend to contact me because she was looking for someone who could talk to the parents about alcohol and drug abuse prevention. I don´t know much about addictions, but I do know teenagers, so I accepted and ended up not only training the parents but also big part of the teachers at her school.

Last year, Flor decided to take her kids out of school and put them in my old school project. That was huge! Not only for her kids who´d been in the traditional system since they were three months old, but for her family who had to change so many paradigms. But it was also huge for the entire school. It was the first time we´d managed to pull in a local family, which says a lot about the socio-economic situation in Puerto Escondido.

Flor is a very unusual Oaxacan woman: she works with herself, she challenges herself, she goes against the system always trying to find ways of rebelling without it being noticed. It´s a fine line between managing that and being thrown out. I´d be thrown out instantly, and I frankly have no idea how she does it!

I´d been talking about the idea of opening up a democratic school with Flor long before I knew it would be an ALC called Explora. My original idea was to open up in 2018, and always thought I´d hire Flor for that project. But now I start earlier and there´s no way I can offer Flor a replacement for her job at this point. But I will be able to do it in a couple of years when I open up full-time.

So, what´s in it for Flor? Well, first of all her three kids will attend Explora without having to pay. Second, Flor is going to learn so many things that she´ll be able to take with her and use directly with the teens at her secondary school.

The fourth facilitator has the same kind of deal. His name is Adalid, he´s a primary teacher that all kids love (especially the ones that hate school). I got to know him when I gave a lecture on alternative education at a local university here in Puerto Escondido in February. He approached me after the lecture and we connected immediately. He´s very similar to Flor in the sense that he hates the system and does what he can to give th kids and nicer experience of school, organizing camps, playing with them and stuff like that.

Adalid´s daughter will attend my kindergarten for free, and he´s giving me his time as a volunteer, learning the same things as the other facilitators and being able to bring the ALC dynamics into his classroom.

The three of us all think it´s a great deal, and what is going to be really exciting is to see how Flor and Adalid will implement the agile tools in the traditional system. Just the thought of it is thrilling!

Finding Mexican Facilitators part 1

Finding facilitators for my ALC has been surprisingly easy. I think it´s because I really know what I want and what I´m looking for in a grown-up who´s dealing with children and teens.

My scanner looks for people who are genuine and authentic and who connect on a soul-to-soul level with young human beings. That´s the main thing,

But I also wanted to attract persons who are:

  • Emotionally mature
  • Sensitive
  • Conscious
  • Natural leaders
  • Teamplayers
  • And that have a willlingness to learn, grow and expand

It´s not always easy to find all of that in the same person, but when I decided I´d open up an ALC I already had three persons on my mind, and the forth showed up by himself.

The first one I thought of was Layo, who´s been doing the gardening and maintenance at my old school for several years. Layo is 21 years old and has a daughter of five and a one year old son, and he´s like this incredible children´s magnet. Kids just loooove him! I´ve watched him for years, working in the garden naturally attending the kids as they automatically turn to him to get help with anything from building a hut to repair a broken sword.

I always wanted Layo to be part of the teaching team, but I was stopped by both teachers and parents who told me he didn´t have “the level”.  Which only proved to me they didn´t know what they were talking about. Fine. I couldn´t hire him then, but I can now and so I have.

I talked to Layo in April, telling him about Explora and what kind of a project it was going to be. I said I wanted to offer him a position as a facilitator and that I was personally going to train him.

Where I live, persons like Layo hardly ever get an opportuntiy to raise above themselves and get any further than gardening or maintenance, because the economy is very basic down here. The idea of giving him the chance to become a facilitator was therefore very appealing to me, and Layo didn´t even think about it twice: I´m in, was his very quick answer. He wants to learn and grow, and he knows opportunities like this doesn´t come by every day, so to him it was a really easy decision.

The second person I thought of was Alberto, my son´s father. Alberto is a visual artist who´s been teaching art for more than two decades. He´s the kindest and most loving person, super playful and kids adore him.

It wasn´t an easy choice, because after all he´s my ex and I was wondering if it was a really good idea for us to work together. We talked and talked. And talked some more. Then we decided we´d do it. The main focus we have in common is always Teo, our son. And after having considered everyting there is to consider, we both agreed it´d be best for our Aspie to have both parents involved in Explora. Since feeling safe around other adults and children is always an issue to him, we think this is the best we can do to create a healthy environment for him.

Both Layo and Alberto will receive salaries for their work.

Click here to read more!

Starting up!

Once I realized there was something called ALC and that what they were doing really appealed to me, I downloaded the starter-kit. I nodded my head through the first thirty pages: everything that was mentioned about what to think of when opening up a school, I already knew was true from my own experiences. It made me feel these guys knew what they were talking about.

It was also really nice to see that they had defined what kind of qualities the people on your team needs to have. Not that I had a team (this time I wanted to do it on my own and avoid any potential problems that can arise while working with others). But it so happens that I have all those qualities, plus seven years of experience of doing this kind of stuff so I figured I´d be fine.

I contacted Tomis, paid the membership fee, and started working on my business plan. Oh dear how tedious, but oh my God what a great document to have! It really helped me clear my thoughts and word them in a way that would make sense not only to me but to parents and future sponsors. It also helped me creating attractive and clear texts for my website that I was working on at the same time.

I know the importance of branding, and asked a graphic designing friend to help me create a logo. Thanks to the clarity of the business plan, it was easy for me to explain to her what I wanted: something that looked cool, unique and clean, that would appeal to adults (they´re also the target group since they´re the ones that pay), with the idea of exploration and learning for life expressed in some way (which is why my logo has both a magnifying glass and an infinity sign in it).

EXPLORA-MAGENTA

I also started contacting a couple of directors at other schools, because I knew that since I no longer represented competition, I might be able to convince them to spread the word to other parents. That prooved to be a really good idea, and I now have what I call allies in the schoolworld: people who have loads of contacts with other families and who will help me in some way or another of letting people know about Explora.

One of them specifically said: “I really support your idea, it´s brilliant and it´s exactly what my students need. I will strongly recommend your project to all of my families – I don´t want to brag, but they usually pay attention to my recommendations.” YAY!!!

By February it struck me that renting a house for only three hours per day is kind of bad business. That´s when I decided that I would create two projects at the same time: In the mornings I´d have a small kindergarten running, and in the afternoons Explora. That would mean: two separate projects with separate budgets sharing the same facilities AND sharing many of the expenses (rent, maintenance, administration etc.).

In no time I had three new teachers to train, local girls that really wanted an opportunity like the one I was offering them, and I started training them on a weekly basis. (For Explora I already had four people in my mind, but I will write more about that in another post.)

I knew I was on the right track when three of my “old” families showed up and said “Your old school is going down the drain without you. Can´t you open up another kindergarten?”. And I realized it was actually a really good idea because I knew that I´d get inscription fees at an earlier stage than with Explora (simply because people don´t pay for extra-curricular activities until the semester starts) which would help me set up the facilities – wherever those would be…

The search for a place took forever, and I was focusing really hard on trust. Everything was flowing in such an amazing way, the house just had to exist. I just needed to find it. I knew I wanted a good house for the kindergarten, but for Explora I wanted land. Loads of land.

I was driving around searching every area. Small houses with no land. Huge houses with not even a garden. Huge chunks of land but no house. Found one perfect place but with owners unwilling to rent. Nothing. I started to get desperate. I was asking all my contacts. They came up with ideas, but nothing that would work for my projects. Not both simultaneously. Trust is really hard, especially when May is ending and I had been so sure I would have the house by then.

Mid-June, there it was! The perfect place: a huge house with two floors, one for the kinder and one for Explora. A small garden for the small kids, and two huge chunks of land for the older ones. And I mean: HUGE!!! Just the way I wanted them. One a little bit arid, but the other is really a small forest. Trees, tiny paths, a big rock to climb, rabbits… I mean: how could it get any better than that?

And all of this for a rent that is so low I can hardly believe it! Just because the house has been a burden to the owners and they´re so grateful that someone is going to take care of it.

The only catch: burglars had taken everything. And I mean everything: toilets, showers, and all the electricity cables including lamps, buttons – it was all gone.

So the rest of June and all July has had me busy dealing with electricians, plumbers, running around all over Puerto Escondido buying stuff I don´t even know what it´s called. Also ordering tables, chairs, curtains, matrasses, cushions and stuff that would make the kindergarten look inviting and cozy so that I´d be able to receive the little ones as from the 1st of August when the kindergarten summer camp would start.

That, I thought, would give me the entire month of August to focus on Explora.

This is where I stand today. In three days it´s time for kindergarten summer camp! And I have exactly ONE MONTH to turn Explora into what I want it to be: a welcoming creative environment that makes kids feel it´s the coolest place they´ve ever seen.

Ahead of me lies:

  • Promotion (radio interviews, informational meetings, putting up posters and distributing flyers – material that has already been prepared – but not yet paid for…)
  • Continue training my team of facilitators, now adding on the agile tools.
  • Finding sponsors for kids from families that lacks the resources to enroll them.
  • Cleaning the land, preparing games (kubb – yes!), making the facilities welcoming and functional.
  • And, ideally finding a sponsor or someone that can lend me a 1000 USD which is what I need in order to be able to furnish the place.

I have no idea how I´ll be able to pull it off, money-wise that is. But I so trust that everything will sort itself out perfectly. The flow has been amazing ever since I decided to do this. On the other hand, I´ve never known from the beginning how I´ll succeed. I just do it. And that is part of the beauty of creating something new. I see things so clearly in my mind, I know so strongly what I want that I don´t let anything stop me: least my own fears. And step after step I figure out the way, and suddenly I´ve made it. My vision has manifested into reality through focus, clarity, perseverance, resilience and trust. Loads and loads of trust.