Having a good and reliable partner is essential for the success of a project. SOLidariedade works in Brazil with the Brazilian foundation AEFRAN (Associação de Educação Franciscana de Penitencia e Caridade Crista). AEFRAN is a foundation of the Franciscan Sisters in Porto Alegre. The formal side of the partnership involves that AEFRAN guarantees visa, work permits and various other legal obligations for Mark and Anouk. AEFRAN is the legal owner of the Centro Franciscano in the city of Alvorada and the Colégio Imaculada in the city of Canoas. Mark and Anouk work at these two locations.
SOLidariedade focuses on disadvantaged young people in Brazil, aged 4 to 16 years. The majority of these young people visits during a number of hours per day a free public school or a private philanthropic school (through a grant). The rest of the day they work in the house (hold), they have a paid job and / or they visit a socio-educational center. The majority of these families receive a monthly allowance from the Bolsa Família program. This is a government social program aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and increasing participation in education (parents only receive benefits if their children go to school).
LOCATION 1: Centro Franciscano in Alvorada
Alvorada is about an hour’s drive from the city of Porto Alegre, where Mark and Anouk live. The town of Alvorada was founded in 1965 and is home to nearly two hundred thousand people. Alvorada is known as a “bedroom community”, because the majority of the population in the morning is going to work in the city and is only late at night coming back home, only to sleep. From its establishment, the city Alvorada is characterized by a very difficult economic and social development. The average income per capita is one of the lowest in the region. 27% of the adult population of working age have no regular income. 4% of the population over fifteen years cannot read or write. These are historical problems, mainly because of a lack of good government and bad investments by successive councils. The low socio-economic status of the city has major consequences for the population. In 2011, the Instituto Sangari researched the violence in the state of Rio Grande do Sul between 2008-2010. It emerged that with forty-four homicides per hundred thousand inhabitants, Alvorada has the highest homicide percentage of the whole province. The residents of Alvorada are fragile and the social risks are high. Unemployment, poor housing and sanitation, violence, human trafficking, poor education, drug abuse, child labor and sexual exploitation characterize their lives. Especially the poor education ensures that people virtually have no chance to improve their lives. The situation for young people is quite hopeless. Recent research shows that there are large groups of young people, who at a very young age are day and night roaming the streets, with all the dangers of violence, child labor and sexual exploitation. In the city, many social institutions and projects lacks (an undertaking to) collaboration and knowledge about the causes of social problems, which are not working effectively.
In the Centro Franciscano daily hundred children and adolescents from six to sixteen are welcomed. In the morning they to go to school, in the afternoon they come to the center (13:00 to 17:00 hours) and the children and adolescents which go to school in the afternoon com to the center in the morning (7:30 to 11:30 hours). The youngsters are divided into four age groups. Each group has a Social Teacher. Per morning or afternoon group they have three hours of activities such as capoeira, sports, drawing, English lessons, music, crafts, computer classes and dancing. Every day we serve a hot meal and if necessary, they can have a shower and / or clothing. Similar centers like this are everywhere in Brazil, it is not a unique initiative. The center, though, is much better equipped than other comparable centers. In that sense, it has many opportunities and could become a unique location. The center is relatively young (2005) and the features are not yet fully exploited. We deliberately chose not to use the full capacity for the children, because at this moment we face challenges in making sure that the children come more consistently. The center suffers from a high turnover of staff and lack of management support and strategic, long-term thinking. There is currently too little involvement of families and there is hardly any cooperation with the schools attended by the children. Both aspects are of great importance in the pursuit of a safe and secure environment for the children and adolescents.
LOCATION 2: Colegio Imaculada, Canoas
Since mid-2013, Anouk also works in the school “Colégio Imaculada” in the city of Canoas. Canoas is like Alvorada a suburb of Porto Alegre and is characterized by the same socio-economic problems. Brazil has two types of schools; the free government schools and expensive private schools. Some private schools have a philanthropic status, which means they at least 10% of their students need to become from poor families. The Colégio Imaculade is such school. Anouk participates in a project funded by the municipality of Canoas. The municipality pays tuition for 75 children (4-5 years) from the poorest families in Canoas. They can therefore follow two years of free Ensino Infantil (group 1 and 2) at the Colégio. If the municipality would not finance this project, these children would not attend school. They are not yet of school age. A nice project for these children and their families, offering them a fair chance at a good start – with no lag – in elementary school. The grant from the municipality is sufficient for a local and a regular teacher, not for material or subject-specific teachers. Anouk is teaching English to these children. The children in the project usually cannot read or write. In the English classes, Anouk uses creative tasks (drawing, painting), music, dance, mime, theater and film.