I cannot believe I have never written here about Canaima School. Maybe it is because something so beautiful do not belong to an informal settlement, maybe it is because my work there has not been related with any upgrading process for so long. Or maybe because in this case I am not professional but a community member.
I knew Canaima in 2006, when we were asked to design a new building. I learned about the extraordinary job this community school was doing, about its humble origins as a one-classroom school, and about their values: catholic education, ecological respect, open to all children, even the ones out of the system. A place with flowers in the windows, were the parents worked along with the teachers. An institution opened to its neighbors all year long. And deep inside the huge settlement of La Vega.
The building we designed was never built. The impossible task of getting permits for a formal building in an informal area would surely be a good subject for a post, a problem worth thinking about. The resources destined for the construction had to be spent in layers and judicial processes. When they ended in 2011, I was hooked. From 2014 I am member of the board.
Along these years we have built some small extensions and we have managed to maintain the infrastructure. But more importantly, as a terrible political, social and economic crisis reaches everybody in Venezuela, we have succeeded in keeping the teachers and pupils. We have still our 600 students, while many schools witness their children and teachers go. Certainly, the mystic of the team and the strong community connection have shown its value.
Yesterday we have our yearly Family Saturday. While helping with the tickets for the games, listening to the music and to the joy, I thought about how important institutions are inside an informal area. How the School has become an oasis in a sad and troubled city. How to protect institutions is as important as to care about the physical environment if we aim for more inclusive cities.
I am so grateful I have been given this opportunity of being helpful.