Qualified director and theatre pedagogue Marcela Herrera completed the part-time training for peace and conflict experts in 2019. Today, she works for the ifa institute for international cultural relations and brings young scholarship holders from around the world together with German organisations. Her long-held desire to work on a peace project in Latin America continues to grow, and as soon as it is feasible for her and her family, she wishes to pursue this route.
Marcela considers the fact that she now works at ifa a “milestone”. One that was only made possible by the training that she continues to benefit from every day in her professional life: “I already have to conceive workshops and to create environments to enable people from very different continents and professional backgrounds of different ages to meet and talk to one another.” The course also helped her to understand how group dynamics work and the importance of non-violent communication.
Identifying actors and bringing them together has always been important to her. After completing her degree in cultural studies in Hildesheim, Marcela worked at theatres and in cultural institutions for many years. She cooperated with schools and kindergartens and on multi-generational projects in different city districts to encourage intercultural dialogue between groups that communicate very little with each other otherwise. “I am particularly interested in working with people who may not be professionals, but who have a vested interest in making their neighbourhood more peaceful,” she says. It was important to her for different life stories to be shared and differences understood in this way. For Marcela believes that this can help to foster democracy: “When social networks are extensive and diverse, you have a better democracy. More people are involved and communication flows better. It is crucial to expand these networks and to increase the capital that is only available to a few.”
The extremely hierarchical and patriarchal organisation at theatres was a continual reminder that the work at theatres was not enough for her. She gave up this work entirely in part. Looking back today, she remarks: “I really struggled to identify with it.” Her work for the municipal cultural authority and then the training course allowed her to rediscover her enjoyment in the work, as theatre was also one of the methods covered during the training that is used in peace and conflict work.
Marcela found the combination of science, reflection and practical work within the course particularly fascinating. The units on project management, evaluation, organisational development and strategy building helped her to reflect on aspects that she had previously simply dealt with instinctively. The training group comprised people from diverse backgrounds, both activists and academics, which made for a particularly stimulating exchange, she tells. “Everyone is very much in their own bubble today and doesn’t realise who is walking alongside them. If we can look each other in the eye, though, then hope can take root.”