Interview with Florbela Lages, founder of INGAH

I’ve known this extraordinary woman since College. Florbela has huge eyes with a transparent expressivity and a soft voice with a sublime delicacy that transmits a profound serenity. Her presence transpires harmony and balance, a perfect simbiose between sweetness and firmness.

It is with an enormous gratitude that I have the honor to share the vision of this inspiring woman about education, the creation of the Educational Space INGAH, health, aromatherapy and her own path.

 

1 – What is it and how was the Educational Space INGAH born?

This space was born from the necessity of creating an educational answer thinking about my reality, my family, my children. But then, I realized this was common to several other families. Since I was no longer identifie with compartments and boxes, I realized that school had that tendency. And I wanted an integral education, a transformational education, where children can afterwards be complete adults and be respected in what they are and where they don’t have to fit into a box that someone thought it should be the same for everyone. And for me, more important than the knowlegde that school may bring, were the living experiences that make us who we are today. So I remember the things I lived in school that has transformed me into what I am today as well as other things that it was difficult for me to “unformat”. So, predicting this and thinking about how different we are and that society is today in a very different level of evolution, I demand that for my children and for other families who think in the same way.

I see the educational space as a physical space as well. When we think about the physical space that INGAH is, we ended up having access to an ancient elementary school, but the school has the doors open, and one can circulate on the inside and children leave to learn outside as well. It is a school open to families. Families come in, they go with their children to see the space where they are and, it is even hard for me to call it school, because this is an alternative project. And I want to run away of what is a school, which is the same as comparing it with what is a school today, so we named it Educational Space. When we presented this idea in the City Hall, this would be the answer to some children who, effectively, did not fit in the pattern and so the City Hall gave us the space thinking about those children. But in reality, this school is for all the children, but there is not a larger vision of that necessity yet.

 

2 – As a Mother what are the main challenges that you see in traditional education? In what way does INGAH bring an answer to those challenges?

In my particular case, as a mother of three children and how different they are, what happens is: if I followed the patterns, my children would have to fit in, each one in their world and, in reality, they wouldn’t be a family. And, then, you want social anwers to solve that to which you didn’t have an answer all along. As I have a child with deficiencies, I would put him in an institution for children with deficiencies. Very well then, the others would go to their own school. What I would be teaching to these children is that their brother has to be in a different place. And then, I know that in the future they will not take responsibility for their brother, because they had that kind of education.

I don’t believe in that.

I believe that if opportunities can be for all and individualized, then they can be together. And, in this moment, they are.

INGAH gives them a joint answer. It is a huge investment from our side, from a financial perspective and also from a time perspective of fight and energy for doing something completely out of the ordinary. Since we are always fighting, we are out of the pattern and, in reality, what I feel is that we are inside the pattern, the only question is that people didn’t get there yet and this is exhausting. But, for me as a mother, this is what makes sense, for the family. And then there are other families to whom this makes sense for other reasons: either because they want an integral education or because they value the arts, the expression and that children can develop in their young ages a free way of being.

Because here’s what happens: children begin being put into boxes, the numbers, the letters… And then, everything that is the development of that child through playing, imagination, expression, emotions, it doesn’t happen. Children need to correspond to what someone thought it should be and I believe that there are years of study behind this, but studies don’t evaluate all the parameters. And there are parameters that are not within these studies.

What we are losing in childhood, we are not gaining in knowledge, which is what people think, the ones who decide. And it’s not happening. We are losing wisdom, because we stopped believing in who we are, we stopped believing we can make it. Many times, when we need to correspond and we can’t correspond, we feel that we are not capable, especially children. This is a crucial age for children to believe that they are capable, so they build their capacities and INGAH is, above all, an educational space where children have time to grow up and we, adults, help them so they use the tools that they already have. Every time a child is prepared the tools come out, not when we think the child should be prepared. And we are there just to support them, it is not something we think that the child needs to correspond when the child is three or four or five years old. And this is very difficult, because it is almost individualised, because you need to have amazing people with a lot of perceptions of what is that that child needs, know the child very well, and be empathetic. This is what traditional school doesn’t have time to, educators also feel like they don’t have time.

 

3 – In what way can societies expand when it comes to education and embrace new educational models?

The first thing is that people must know they can do it. They can’t be afraid to risk to do differently. Since we have a generation of teachers completely formatted and who depend of decision makers who are above them, it is needed that the decision makes tell them that they can do differently and that they have time for that.

As I see it, the teacher should be able to understand that what is not adequate and to be able to do it differently, but it would have to be several teachers. United people create different solutions. Now, we need to work in a team, we need to support each other mutually, we need to show there can be other solutions and different levels to implement them. Now, this requires time, it requires a change of patterns, it requires political decisions focused in people. It requires confidence in another system or that it is already implemented in other countries or that it’s tested again, without fear of making a mistake. I think it all comes down to this: being afraid of making a mistake. I see it a lot the excuses, especially if you confront a teacher or an educator, he has the tendency to blame himself, because he can’t, because the director won’t let jim, because in that school is not possible to change. Each one must assume his responsibility and do his share.

 

4 – INGAH has some success, in what way was INGAH able to answer the specific necessities of certain students? What are the key aspects of this success?

All are success cases, because the growth of those children is incredible! And the way they talk about themes that, ofr their age normally children don’t talk about, is incredible! And you see how transformative that is, for example, to have a child talking not only about the cycle of the water, but to know what is the true importance of water. Imagine, this to ally to the knowledge and the critical thought and the why and the what it is possible we can do. Just so you have an idea, on the way to INGAH, my middle son asked me why were they cutting trees. It was on that period of time when people had to clean their terrains. And he said “Mother go and talk with the gentleman on the City Hall who is responsible, because the trees are what makes us have oxygen to breath. Why are they cutting down the trees?”. So, he was very disturbed when he arrived to the school about what they did. On that day they went to plant trees in the forest, first to calm down the anxiety of that child who understood that something wasn’t right and, then, to contribute to the environmental sustainability. So these things bring knowledge and living experience together.

And, then, we have the issue of children who fit in some pattern like autism and in INGAH they can be free children and be themselves. And they don’t need to correspond to what people want from them. It is much more the contrary: it is to observe that child, to see what the child likes to do and to see how we can help the child to develop. This also transforms the way of being of these children, those children who are aggressive, you can see that they are not aggressive here, other children get along with them in harmony, because they respect them. And children observe what adults do and then they replicate it.

 

5 – In terms of education what are the main challenges that societies face and what can each one of us as a citizen do to fill in these blanks?

There are several difficulties in terms of education and that translates itself in the “problems” that the entire educational community has been feeling, in children’s behaviours, bullying issues, suicides, high pressure. From my perspective, all of this is a reflex of the blanks we have socially and educationally. Since we spend a lot of times, a lot of years, in this formatted system, we reach the end of this road thinking that we are that which we went though in school and that this is the only way of doing things. But then, you reach reality outside and you understand that the world wants exactly another thing. So this creates a severe stress both for young generations and for older ones.

I think we keep on doing that which we know in terms of education, we are afraid to make mistakes, we are afraid to do it differently, we afraid to run risks. Even the parents who want a different education, keep choosing the system for their children.

While we don’t choose to do what we believe in and to send out that message somehow, we will always have that gap between people who afterwards get confused.

Parents shouldn’t be quiet. This can’t just be a problem of the family, because my son can’t do it… Parents must use the means they have available and reach people we chose to represent us. At least that! We need people who speak, who have a voice!

 

6 – How did you start using essential oils and implementing them in the daily routine of your family?

Someone who used the oils gave me one when I had an headache. And of course, I became very interested in knowing what that was.

This had a boom when I realised that all the health issues of my children were solved. And even our own. For example, they became stronger and they were not sick so often. So I wanted to know more about it and took some courses on how to use, doing my own study as well.

And the truth is that it worked so well with my family, it brought us so much life quality, we didn’t have to depend on chemicals products anymore. I was in love!

My children also started to have more autonomy with the oils as they became more and more familiarised with them.

I also use them in the school when needed.

The important thing is to solve the origin of the issue and that’s what essential oils allowed me to do.

 

7 – What are your values and/or mantras in life?

I have some values and they transform as I go along.

In this moment, the key for me is Respect.

It seems like a cliché. It is hard for me to translate values into words, because they can’t justify that which moves me. But, in this moment, what I feel, if I don’t have to use big words, is respecting that which I feel it’s necessary for the change to happen. And I know that can happen through the empathy that you create with others, putting yourself in others shoes. It is respect with love, there is no specific word for it.

And then, I also learned to live day to day, enjoying each day. I learned to respect myself, to say no. It was one of the things I had a lot of difficulty and now I do it for respect to myself and respect to others. Being able to say no it is for me, in this moment, a great victory.

Another thing that kept on changing is not wanting things so fast as I did before. It was something that caused me stress. If I tell you these words: patience and resilience, this may intake many things. In my case it means to know how to wait, without the ambition that it is fast, to know that there is a right time for each thing. I also learned to respect the time of others. Each person has their own time and I am no longer in a rush to solve this or that or to push people in their own way.

 

8 – How is it that being a Wife, a Mother, a Professional, an Activist meet for you? How do you find balance between all of those?

I’m not sure if I find balance… (laughs)

My basis is my family, my husband and my children. Everything else I do is to ensure that what sustains us has continuity, in the world, in education, in social politics, in people’s transformation. So they co-exist and they are themes that I bring to the dialogues at home or to dialogues with friends. When you accept your basis, you have to know that that is your priority. For me, everything that allows me to satisfy the necessity to be a mother, to be a women, to respect, to follow my path and to not live in stress. So I don’t know if there is a balance, but for now they are able to co-exist. When the day comes that I have to abdicate some of the things, I will abdicate them. Of my family, of being a mother, I will never abdicate. I am not an activist. I chose to do activism. What I really am is the mother of a family and an educator. That is my great priority. I don’t define myself by the things I can do, because they will change. Today it is this, but tomorrow it may be something else.

 

9 – And what are your plans for the future?

I have a lot of dreams and I try to make few plans. I realised that plans kill creativity.

I dream of having a co-housing space where I will place my wood house, keep on betting on minimalism and enjoying each phase with the necessary serenity to be able to be available to create solutions that I believe in.

10 – What last words on health and wellness would you like to share?

What I would really like for Humanity, for each person, is that they didn’t have to wear masks. That they could free themselves from those burdens and to be themselves. And for better or worse, we would have truthful people living more with their essence. This would be what I would wish for each person.

For Humanity in general, I would like for us to keep ourselves as a species, because what we are doing may bring us a book! (laughs)

And then, I would like for us to respect each other and I would also like that we would know where we come from and where we are going, without anything else, like a backpacker. (laughs)

 

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