Tag Archives: brazil

An Invitation of a Lifetime

Not long ago, we receive a letter from our volunteer coordinator at our affiliated project CADI (Centro de Assistência e Desenvolvimento Integral) in Brazil about one of our sponsored children, Celia*. Celia, an avid rugby player at her high school, was invited to play professionally, and was in need of support to purchase a new uniform, proper shoes, and to cover her travel expenses to and from matches. Her coordinator asked Children Incorporated if we could help, and we were happy to do so, knowing that this was the opportunity of a lifetime for Celia to pursue her dreams.

Getting to know CADI

Celia has been playing rugby since 2014.

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world – both geographically and in terms of population. It is truly massive, sharing borders with every other country in South America except for Ecuador and Chile. The Amazon rainforest – recognized for having the greatest biological diversity on the planet – sprawls over the country’s northern half, and there are rugged mountains to the south. Despite its wealth of natural resources and beauty, Brazil suffers from staggering poverty, rising inflation, unemployment, and a lack of social development. These issues are especially pronounced in Fazenda Rio Grande, a town in the outskirts of Curitiba in southern Brazil.

There, many families struggle to afford even the most basic necessities – including their children’s education-related expenses. What began in 1994 as a soccer school to motivate and assist the children of these low-income families has now become CADI – a national nonprofit organization that maintains a center for holistic development in Fazenda Rio Grande. CADI’s mission is to motivate and equip these deserving children to rise above the difficult socioeconomic circumstances from which they come, thus helping them to break the cycle of poverty. Thanks to CADI’s support, as well as that of her sponsor, Celia has been able to attend school, and to find her passion for the sport of rugby.

A letter to her sponsor

We are very proud of Celia for her accomplishments, and we wish her all the best as she continues to work hard both in school and on the rugby field.

Upon finding out that she had been asked to play on a professional rugby team, Celia wrote a letter to her sponsor explaining how she first got started playing the sport years ago.

“Dear Sponsor,

“It’s been six years since I started attending CADI, and during these years, I have participated in various activities and classes. I started playing rugby in 2014. I started playing just for fun with a friend of mine, even when many people say that it is a sport for boys. Who would have guessed that two tough girls would make history for our team? Our team keeps winning at festivals and in competitions.”

We are very proud of Celia for her accomplishments, and we wish her all the best as she continues to work hard both in school and on the rugby field.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BRAZIL?

You can sponsor a child in Brazil in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in Brazil that is available for sponsorship.

Educating Girls Is Critical to Reducing Poverty

International Women’s Day is coming up next week, on March 8. It’s a time for us to reflect on the contributions women make to society, despite the massive challenges they face here and around the globe.

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Anyone can see that women and girls are still less valued than men and boys in many cultures. Women – even educated women – still earn significantly less than men in the job market. And in some cultures, young girls are not even given opportunities for learning or growth so that they may support themselves and their families in the future.

We’d like to think of this as a problem found only in impoverished countries; but the discrepancy is easy to track in America as well.

A recent story in the Dallas Morning News stated that seventeen percent of women and girls in Texas live in poverty. Sadly, that’s not out of line with the national average: 14.7 percent of American women are living in poverty – a significantly higher rate than that of men – according to the 2015 Census.

A lot of that has to do with the wage gap: women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men make. But it also has to do with a systematic lack of opportunities for girls, and that’s where Children Incorporated has been directing its efforts.

Education is the key

At Children Incorporated, we work to break that cycle, helping to give children the opportunity to get an education so that they can, as adults, rise above poverty.

We already know that education is critical in reducing poverty rates. Many children live in situations where one or both parents are either uneducated, or at the very least, are undereducated. As such, these parents often have very low-wage jobs, with few or no benefits. Due to a lack of financial resources in the family, they have an incredibly difficult time moving up and improving their station in life. If only the parents were better educated and more qualified to hold higher-paying jobs with benefits and perks, perhaps the family could escape the trappings of poverty.

At Children Incorporated, we work to break that cycle, helping to give children the opportunity to get an education so that they can, as adults, rise above poverty.

Raising role models

One shining example can be found in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Last spring, Children Incorporated Director of Development Shelley Callahan and Director of International Programs Luis Bourdet visited Villa Emilia, a small compound just outside of the city that helps women and children who have been living on the streets turn their lives around.

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The alleys of Santa Cruz are home to countless women who work the streets to keep their children fed. It’s hard and dangerous, and often illegal. The children grow up uneducated and homeless themselves. As they grow into adulthood, the boys can become laborers or field hands. The girls, however, often have no options but to take to the streets too – thus continuing the cycle.

Sister Pilar and the nuns at Villa Emilia find these families in the alleys and bring them to the community to live. The women are trained in garment making, the children are educated, and everyone is taught work ethic and life skills that they can pass down.

The Sisters also help families to build permanence and stability. When families move to Villa Emilia, they live in homes that are owned by the Sisters. However, with the wages they earn in the villa’s garment factory, the women purchase homes of their own, giving their children a fresh start living in a new home and getting an education.

Focusing on women has been paying off – the children wear clothes their mothers have sewn themselves, they live in houses purchased by their mothers, and they go to schools that are available to them because of their mothers’ efforts. These mothers have become role models for the girls – and the boys – of the next generation.

Focusing on women has been paying off – the children wear clothes their mothers have sewn themselves, they live in houses purchased by their mothers, and they go to schools that are available to them because of their mothers’ efforts. These mothers have become role models for the girls – and the boys – of the next generation.

Skills for life

In Lages, Brazil, Children Incorporated began supporting women of Grupo Art’Mulher, a community bakery that sells cookies, breads, pastas, and cakes. The group’s purpose is to teach business skills and a trade to mothers, who also earn an income for their work.

In its first year, twenty women received instruction on how to bake and how to sell baked goods. Grupo Art’Mulher began making a name for itself at the local market, and many members of the first class ended up getting jobs in the food industry.

That was five years ago, and since then, the program has only grown. The mothers of Grupo Art’Mulher have learned to support their families, and have learned cooking and business skills to pass down to their own children. They’ve also earned enough to give back – a percentage of the bakery income will be donated to start music and theater courses in a building across the street froDSCF3105m it this year.

In some areas, like in Santa Cruz and Lages, we sponsor programs aimed toward women and girls specifically. But at all of our projects, we value girls and include them in our programs just as we do boys. We do not support work where intolerance or gender prejudice is known to exist.

In areas for which we fundraise to create special facilities, such as the computer lab we helped get up-and-running in Mexico, or the school we built in Bolivia, female students are afforded the same access to services as the male ones. In Guatemala, we support a wonderful school where children are given vocational training of all kinds – and the girls are just as involved, if not even more so, than the boys.

Changing communities is a slow, but steady process, and all evidence points to the fact that more and more girls are receiving a good education.

Changing communities is a slow, but steady process, and all evidence points to the fact that more and more girls are receiving a good education. That will allow them to do better in life financially than their parents did, and to slowly change the outlook of the entire community in which they live.

Self-Sufficiency

The Pumwani slum of Nairobi is considered one of the worst communities in the world. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people live crowded together in shacks about the size of an American bathroom, with no water or electricity, and along streets of mud.

One of our projects there is St. John’s Community Center, where 200 children are taught academic subjects, as well as trades like woodworking, metal work, sewing, and cooking, so that they can get jobs and get out of the slums.DSCF9626

And sometimes success is easy to see in someone’s face. Callahan and Bourdet met a graduate of the program, Mwanaharusi, who learned to sew at St. John’s. She saved enough money to buy a foot-powered sewing machine, and now has her own business making clothes and mending garments.

It’s modest success by some standards; but in the darkest corners of the world, it’s a major victory. A girl born into poverty in a country where girls are often not educated at all – finishes school, starts her own business, and is able to support herself and her family.

Moving Forward

With every success like Mwanaharusi’s, we move one step closer to equality. But we don’t do it alone. With funding from our sponsors, and with continued attention to childhood poverty and income inequality – both at home and abroad – we will keep moving forward together, one step at a time.

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How do I sponsor a child through Children Incorporated?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated in one of three ways – call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child that is available for sponsorship.

A Fully-Baked Idea Brings Economic Stability to Brazilian Moms

When the mothers of the CARITAS-Novo Milenio Center presented the community’s children with their signature jumbo-sized birthday cake, they had a lot to celebrate.

This year marked the fifth anniversary of the Grupo Art’Mulher, a group of women who formed a community bakery which sells cookies, breads, handmade pasta – and, of course, cakes!

230278479460523-xy4kit7rbqzekye69udf_height640Novo Milenio is a poor district outside of Lages, Brazil, a country that simultaneously contains some of the world’s richest culture as well as a disturbingly high level of poverty. The Catholic Church established the CARITAS-Novo Milenio Center to oversee some of the efforts to care for this community at a nuclear-family level, focusing on both child and parent alike.

A priest from the Caritas diocese and a volunteer coordinator keep the place running, with indispensable help from community members.

“The community is very united,” says Andreia Beraldo, International Programs Project Specialist for Children Incorporated. “I could see on my first visit that they’re always working together.” This collaborative spirit is part of the reason Children Incorporated was so interested in getting involved with CARITAS-Novo Milenio in the first place. A willing, creative, and practical community helps spread a program’s reach and deepen its impact.

“The community is very united,” says Andreia Beraldo, International Programs Project Specialist for Children Incorporated. “I could see on my first visit that they’re always working together.”

By early 2016, Children Incorporated had funded a successful tutoring program for the eighty children who attend the center, a vegetable garden project, and (through sponsorships) helped cover the costs of food, clothing, shoes, school supplies, and other necessaries.

So when CARITAS-Novo Milenio proposed the idea of a mother-run bakery that would teach business skills and a trade while generating income, Children Incorporated was ready to get on board.

Teach a Parent, Impact a Child

It’s well-known among those who practice social work with Brazil’s children: if you teach skills to parents, you not only benefit their children’s lives, but you also help another generation of Brazilians become more self-sufficient. Of the five projects Children Incorporated supports in Brazil, three of them focus on developing both the parents’ and children’s skills – all with encouraging results.

226341427036341-l9uj5jz4g2ldvh6qjvwy_height640But the bakery, which would be called Grupo Art’Mulher (literally, “Women’s Art Group”), would do so much more than just teach these mothers how to bake. The twenty women who became the program’s first participants were taught how to achieve economic solidarity through the manufacturing and sale of baked goods. The plan was to have a teacher instruct the women on baking cookies, breads, and cakes – and how to sell them.

And sell them, they did! Art’Mulher began making a name for itself at the local market, where its cakes, breads, and pasteis were in high demand.

Of that first group of twenty, many did find jobs making food – and they also found themselves returning to participate in center activities.

“Their increased self-esteem was visible,” remembers Maria Aparecida da Fonseca, the center’s volunteer coordinator. “And this is strengthening the Novo Milenio community.” She credits the program and others supported by Children Incorporated at the center for motivating families to tend to their home gardens, make more nutritious food, and even sell some of their produce at farmers’ markets, and increasing their income.

“Their increased self-esteem was visible,” remembers Maria Aparecida da Fonseca, the center’s volunteer coordinator. “And this is strengthening the Novo Milenio community.”

What’s Next for Novo Milenio?

The eight women who currently bake for Art’Mulher will have good news: the community bakery will be funded another year. But CARITAS-Novo Milenio won’t stop there in 2017; their plan is to initiate music and theater courses in a house across the street from the center. The renovation of that house is also in the plan, and the Art’Mulher mothers’ have donated a small percentage of their bakery income to that very project. That extra space would come in handy, giving the center more space to help more children with more activities.

The ladies from Art’Mulher are sharing the recipe for their popular birthday cake for you to try on your next special occasion!:

White Birthday Cake

Ingredients:

2 ½  cups (215 g) flour

1 1/3 cups (275 g) sugar

1 tbsp + 1 tsp (10 g) baking powder

¼ cup (65 ml) water

6 eggs

1 can dulce de leche

Whipped cream or icing to cover the cake

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a mixer, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, water, and eggs in a bowl for 10 minutes on medium speed.
  3. Pour batter into 8” cake pan.
  4. Bake until cake is golden brown and springs back from the touch – about 35 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack.
  6. Separate into 2 layers and fill with dulce de leche.
  7. Frost with whipped cream or icing of your choice.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BRAZIL?

You can sponsor a child in Brazil in one of two ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, or go online to our donation portal, create and account, and search for a child in Brazil that is available for sponsorship.

Recanto Esperanca

The glamour of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is a day’s drive away from Uberaba. But, to the children who live in this small neighborhood on the outskirts of Curitiba in dilapidated shacks on unpaved roads, the Olympics might as well be on another planet.

DSCN2462Children Incorporated sponsors five separate projects in Brazil, helping 170 kids gain access to necessities and opportunity. While each program has a place in Andreia Beraldo’s heart, it’s Recanto Esperanca in Uberaba that has left the most lasting impression.

The first time the Children Incorporated Project Specialist for International Programs saw the center, which now serves 64 children, the building barely had a second floor. Two years later, she could barely recognize the place. With three floors, which includes a gymnasium, Recanto Esperanca is by far the nicest and most solid structure in the neighborhood, Beraldo says.

Far from home, one couple shares a vision

But of course, the building is only the gathering place—the real Recanto Esperanca is the people behind it, namely Erika and Thomas Bleiker. The two relocated to Brazil from Switzerland on a mission to do what they could to help impoverished children. Like many poor areas in Brazil, Uberaba presents challenges to its residents. The drug trade thrives here, and children, most of whom are left alone while parents try to earn a living, are especially vulnerable to negative influences. Abuse and violence are an ever-present danger, as are contagious diseases like dengue and zika, and children struggle to stay healthy.

“Both times I went there,” says Beraldo. “You can see the children are so happy. Even the volunteers shared that they didn’t like going back home because they were so happy to be there. Some of them even wished they could come back for the weekend, because it’s so nice and safe and clean.”

In 2004, the Bleikers built their center around the idea that the neighborhood could be changed by fostering a value for citizenship in its children. Recanto Esperanca provides a safe space, where kids can sharpen their minds, participate in recreational activities, build ties with their neighbors, and just play. Before or after school, children busy themselves with computer skills training, sports, art, religious classes, or drama classes.

This summer, the theme is all about the Olympics: practicing new sports and learning more about the countries who are taking part.

The legacy of support

“Both times I went there,” says Beraldo. “You can see the children are so happy. Even the volunteers shared that they didn’t like going back home because they were so happy to be there. Some of them even wished they could come back for the weekend, because it’s so nice and safe and clean.”

DSCN9992Though children are the focus, the Bleikers want Recanto Esperanca to engage parents as well, for support that benefits the entire family. The neighborhood mothers also find themselves at the center, learning new skills, like art, jewelry-making, and more. With this beautiful handmade jewelry as a testament to the effects of Recanto, Thomas and Erika Bleiker have been successful raising funds all over the world.

Children Incorporated was struck by the dedication of Recanto Esperanca’s founders and the impact it was all clearly making on the children. It decided to sponsor children in the program, donating shoes, clothes, school supplies, cleaning products, and even food. These basic resources are not a given for many of Uberaba’s children and teenagers, but Children Incorporated was able to work with Recanto to improve the lives of 59 of them.

Beraldo imagines a near future for Recanto that involves a trained teacher to help with tutoring in the way that a similar hire kicked another center, Caritas, into high gear. She’s already seen that Recanto’s children, who range from six-year-olds to older teenagers, flourish as part of a supportive community, and she knows that more opportunities for academic study will only motivate these kids more.

And something Uberaba greatly needs is educated adults forming a community that looks out for each other. As these children grow up practicing the Swiss sport of floorball, putting on a play with their peers, or learning that someone cares enough to give them some help with their homework, they’re collecting the tools they need to rise out of poverty, perhaps bringing their community along with them.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BRAZIL?

You can sponsor a child in Brazil in one of three ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in Brazil that is available for sponsorship.