The Power of Courageous Compassion in the Midst of War Trauma

The Blackness of War

“War is the black spot of human character. In individual or collective life one can struggle, but war is based on hatred and on divisive tendencies. Is it not black?”, P.R. Sarkar

When Language Fails…

Wars are initiated by leaders and elites that wield political and economic power, not by the ordinary citizens of the populations that they lead, who would generally prefer peace to conflict. Ukrainians and Russians that I know have family relationships, business partnerships, spiritual communities, or friendships that transcend the borders between these two countries. However, governments need the support of their populations to not only create a perception of legitimacy but also to effectively mobilize the nation’s resources when going to war with a neighbouring people. To gain the cooperation and willingness of its people to undergo the hardships and sacrifices that war brings, propaganda designed to incite hatred and inflame grievances can create profound divisions even where none would have existed naturally. This consolidates the power of the leadership, uniting a nation or group of allies using glorious or patriotic narratives while vilifying the “other”. All of these tactics tap into the enormous motivational power of geo and socio-sentiments, which overrides the more rationalistic stance of relating to common bonds of humanity.

While many focus on the historical, geopolitical roots of the conflict between these two nations, the mediator Kenneth Cloke, takes a different perspective in his article, “The War in Ukraine: Lessons for Mediators”.

“Margaret Atwood may have put it best: “War is what happens when language fails.” …. War is what happens when people are demonized and disrespected when needs remain unaddressed and interests unsatisfied, when pressing problems are ignored, when intense emotions are left unheard and unacknowledged, and when conflicts are allowed to fester, turning small, preventable, easily resolvable differences into immense, unavoidable, intractable crises in which violence seems the only way out.

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How to Free Your Mind from Toxic War Propaganda

How to Free Your Mind from Toxic War Propaganda

A Neohumanist Analytical Method for Navigating the Media in Times of War

– Didi Ananda Devapriya, president of NEA and AMURTEL Associations

Heartbreaking Testimony of Babies Left to Die

On October 10, 1990, Nayirah, a young 15-year-old girl from Kuwait, stood before the United States Congressional Human Rights Caucus. She told the representatives of Congress that she had been volunteering at a hospital when Iraqi soldiers armed with guns entered. “They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the children to die on the cold floor. It was horrifying,” she said, eyes full of tears and voice breaking with emotion. Indeed, this gruesome image of inhumanity shocked and horrified everyone who heard it.   By evening, a recording of the testimony had reached between 35-53 million Americans.  This eyewitness account provided indisputable evidence for the numerous reports that had been coming out of Kuwait of Iraqi soldiers looting hospitals of valuable equipment and committing human rights violations.   The story also dramatically influenced US public opinion in favor of supporting military action in Kuwait.

Selling a War

However, two years later, an investigative journalist of the New York Times, John MacArthur, published a piece revealing that in fact, Nariyah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US, Saud Nasir al-Sabah.  In December 1992, the CBC program called “To sell a War” exposed even more details. The Kuwait embassy had also formed a fake grassroots “astroturf”  committee “Citizens for a Free Kuwait”, which was principally financed by the Kuwaiti Royal Family. “Astroturf” operations refer to the practice of obscuring the actual sponsors of a message or organization to make it look as though it is originating at the grassroots level, in order to enjoy more credibility. Citizens for a Free Kuwait had hired the Hill & Knowlton public relations firm, investing in a $1 million study to determine the best way to influence American public opinion in favor of war, and decided that news of atrocities, in particular towards defenseless babies or children, would have the most impact. The firm had also provided coaching to Nayirah and filmed her story to make the video news release that was then distributed to Medialink, serving 700 television stations in the US.
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Why should access to early childhood education be prioritized during the pandemic?


PRESS RELEASE –  October 26th 2020

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of closing early childhood programs on the long-term well-being and development of children aged zero-six needs to be taken into more careful consideration.  In the immediate urgency to prevent the spread of the pandemic, long term risks and impacts are being ignored, whereas the benefits of such closures have not been able to be clearly demonstrated by emerging research.  The following arguments offer important points in support of keeping early childhood care programs open, so policymakers can take into account the specific needs of very young children. 

It is well established that the early childhood years from zero-six,  are an extremely important formative period for neurological development and life long well being.   During this period, positive, meaningful relationships, active play, and exploration are essential to children’s well-being and development.   

Already, studies in the past years from researchers around the world are finding evidence that screen time damages young children’s developmental outcomes.   The World Health Organisation officially recommend no more than an hour of screen time for children between 2-4, and that less is better. However,  with early childhood programs closed, many children are now be exposed to far more than these recommended limits. 

While online learning may be a viable option for older children that are able to work relatively independently, it is clearly not a developmentally appropriate option for the early years.  An NIH (National Institute of Health, USA) started in 2018, already has been collecting data that shows that children that spend more than two hours a day in front of screens score lower on language and thinking, and those spending more than seven hours daily experience a thinning of the brain’s cortex which is related to critical thinking and reasoning.  More importantly, the highly addictive, dopamine stimulating effect of games that have short reward feedback loops damages children’s neurological ability to develop patience, reduces their attention span and self-regulation abilities. 

Parents that cannot access early childhood services because of closures, must juggle work responsibilities with supervising their own children, often leading to increased exposures to screentime, or even leading to neglect. Many are not in a situation in which it is feasible to hire a nanny or involve grandparents. 

In addition, the closure of structured early childhood care options forces many parents to find ways of integrating their children into their work lives.  For example,  in  Bucharest, Romania, in the past week when kindergartens were closed, many parents were found bringing their children along with them to work, to go shopping, or to public playgrounds, all of which present a lot more risk factors than bringing their child to a stable early childhood environment that must carefully respect hygiene requirements.

Meanwhile, the rate of unemployment is much higher amongst women, who are disproportionately involved in childcare.  In Romania, two-thirds of those currently unemployed due to the pandemic are women. This has a negative economic impact on the country, but it also represents a backward step in obtaining greater gender equality in the workforce.

The period of the pandemic has created additional stress on vulnerable families that are already suffering from domestic violence, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, or neglect.  Indeed, the number of cases of domestic violence has increased considerably since the beginning of 2020 until the present moment.  Closing childcare programs both reduces or eliminates the time away from a potential perpetrator while simultaneously increasing pressure on the volatile family units, putting such children at increased risk for traumatic experiences, or even potentially endangering their lives.

Keeping safe, appropriate early childhood care programs open during this period is essential for guaranteeing the long term well being of an entire generation of children.  Early childhood programs, that are strictly following the health recommendations for the prevention of the spread of the pandemic, offer a safer, more protected environment that ensures children’s overall development, than when they must stay at home in situations in which parents are not able to offer them the same level of attention, stimulation, and socialization available in a structured program. 

Indeed, there is a study from – Enric Alvarez in Spain analyzing data following the reopening of schools across five communities in Spain which did not find any consistent correlation with a spike in cases, as would be expected,   had the reopenings accelerated the spread.  A study from Yale University also did not find a higher rate of infections amongst early childhood care workers that continued to work with children in the first three months of the pandemic versus those that stayed at home.   As young children are at low risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID0-19,  these findings would seem to indicate that the benefits of face-to-face early childhood programs, especially in terms of long term impacts, may far outweigh any short term potential benefits in reducing the spread of the virus.

We request policymakers and the emergency committee in Bucharest to keep early childhood education programs open – not only daycare and after schools, but both public and private kindergartens, with, of course, all of the necessary hygienic precautions that have already been defined, and closures to happen on a case by case basis if hotspots emerge in a particular institution. 

For more details, you can contact:

Denise Deshaies

President of Neohumanist Education Association /






Every Child has an Inner Compass


Share new perspectives on how to nurture the emergence of moral values in the young child

You are invited to join an ISSA Peer Learning Activity (PLA) that will take place in Bucharest, Romania, February 10-11,  2020, led by the Neohumanist Education Association (Romania) and Zonnelicht Kindergarten (Netherlands). This is an exchange of experience specifically designed for ISSA members, who can apply for funding that will cover their participation. There are also a limited number of places available to people from outside of the ISSA network, or from the local Romanian educational community, but they will have to cover their own expenses.

Exploring the  emergence of morality:

  • If we see the child as a competent learner, how does this shift our understanding and practice of moral education?
  • Is moral education a necessity in the modern world?
  • Is morality a socially imposed construct, or inherent to human nature? If inherent, what are the educational implications?
  • How can educators help children to develop and listen to their moral compass?


In this Peer Learning Experience, early childhood education experts and leaders will meet to discuss and reflect on best practices in supporting young children to develop their own inner compass of moral values.

Nurturing Intrinsic Morality vs. Imposed Morality

In the past, especially in authoritarian forms of education, moral education tended to rely on fear-based approaches to impose moral values from the outside. Traditional religions were also a source of moral education, however, their influence has faded as educational systems become increasingly secular.

Fresh approach

Fresh approaches are needed that aid young children in developing a reliable inner compass to navigate an increasingly sophisticated and complex world.  How can we support children in finding their sense of self-hood and their ability to make wise, empathic,  pro-social choices?


Yolande Koning, the director of the Zonnelicht kindergarten a Neohumanist kindergarten has more than 30 years of experience in developing innovative approaches to moral education with young children.  Together with Didi Devapriya from the Neohumanist Education Association in Romania, they have compiled practical approaches that early childhood educators can use to support the emergence of the self and intrinsic moral values.

How to sign up?

During this peer learning experience, they will share the results of their collaboration and invite debate and discussion on the topic with educators from Romania and at least five other ISSA member countries.

To find out more information and sign up for the PLA, please contact Didi:  didi (at)

Participants will be selected on a first-come-first-served basis.

Registration Deadline

The deadline for registration is January 31.

Costs included for ISSA members:

Travel costs up to 250 euros, and accommodation for 3 nights in Bucharest and meals during the meeting will be covered for members of the ISSA Network.

To find out more information and sign up for the PLA, please contact Didi:  didi (at)




Video: Children in Permaculture

What is permaculture, why is it vital in the quest for viability on planet earth, and how can it play a key role in the education of children? This short video offers a succinct glimpse of the vision that guided the “Children in Permaculture” project, as well as introducing practical resources now available for free online.




Green play and learning with Sardes!

Green playing & learning’ is an ISSA Peer Learning Activity developed by Sardes (the Netherlands) and the Neohumanist Education Association (AEN, Romania). In this PLA trainers will be trained to teach preschool and early years teachers how they can enrich their program with the ethics of “earth care, people care and fair share” from permaculture, and use the natural curiosity of young children to explore and discover nature.

The training

In the training ‘Green playing & learning’ ECD teachers will learn how to use young children´s curiosity for nature and how to embed the permaculture principles of ‘earth care, people care and fair share’. They take the children outside to discover the overwhelming treasures of nature, and they learn how to take and use nature and natural materials inside as well. Participants are taught how to design and develop a nature theme with activities covering all relevant development areas.

Download the leaflet Green playing and learning


When: Monday-Tuesday, 13-14 May 2019

Where: Visitors centre Natuurmonumenten Gooi en Vechtstreek, Noordereinde 54-b, 1243JJ, ’s Graveland

Course size: maximum of 12 participants (max. 2 per ISSA member)

Accommodation: one night stay covered by ISSA/PLA program (bed + breakfast).

Travel: 100 EUR per participant contribution to travel cost is provided by ISSA/PLA.

Meals: on Monday May 13th lunch and dinner are provided. On Tuesday May  14th lunch is provided.


Training: Peace Education – Expanding Peace from Inside

ISSA members, Neohumanist Education Association (Romania) and Mutant (Netherlands) are pleased to invite you to a two-day “Peer Learning Activity” (PLA) funded by ISSA, to teach the skills necessary for inner and outer peace and happiness from the early years, in age-appropriate ways!

This PLA will adapt the “Peace in your Hands” international training and materials to early childhood education and incorporate practices from Neohumanist Education, such as Quiet Time, Yoga for Children, Wisdom stories and the inner development of the teacher.

Who is this Peer-Learning Activity for?

This training is designed for early childhood education professionals (directors, trainers or practitioners) that wish to pro-actively enhance children’s resilience and abilities to actively create a peaceful, happy world around them.  Skills in self-regulation, conflict resolution, as well as values based on peace, can be taught from the early years and create a strong foundation for life.

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First International Children in Permaculture Conference in Prague

The international Children in Permaculture conference was a great celebration of a learning journey, enriching teamwork, inspiring networking and a precious seed for the future steps.

This event which took place in Prague, Czech Republic 4-5 May 2018, brought together more than 150 people from different countries and fields, such as educators, school and kindergarten teachers, head teachers, permaculturists, trainers, children’s and outdoor learning NGO, families and children of course. Several Czech and international volunteers supported the conference with their active and lively contribution. All shared a dream of including children in permaculture and embedding its ethics and principles into education. Read More

New C.I.P. Manual ! Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share in Education

At last, after several years of intensive collaboration during the Erasmus Plus project “Children in Permaculture”  – the C.I.P. manual has been published!  “Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share in Education”  was co-authored by Lusi Aldersrowe, Gaye Amus and Didi A. Devapriya (the president of the Neohumanist Association of Romania) but many more were involved in the three year process that included seven partner organizations from five countries – including the U.K., Romania, Slovenia, Czechoslavakia, Italy.
The manual is the fruit of a rich exchange of best practices and theory between permaculture experts, experienced practitioners of outdoor education, forest kindergarten leaders, educators and Neohumanist education experts.  The manual is now available in entirety online, as well as in printed form for participants in C.I.P. trainings!

The manual has received excellent reviews from  by some of the leading experts in the fields of outdoor education, nature education and permaculture  including Richard Louv, Dr. (Fil lic) Anders Szczepanski,  Rosemary Morrow, Janet Millington and Carolyn Nuttall. You can find more details below and in the manual itself:

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