•April 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

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Midway Report

•October 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

  1. 1. Who you are and why did you decide to become a poverty fighter

I am Santiago José Massano and I am from Argentina. I decided to become a poverty fighter for two reasons: because I really like to help people to have a better life and because I want to learn how to do that so I can do it in my own country.

  1. 2. Your project and your achievements during the first 2 months

My project is in Itiúba on Bahia state in the northeast of Brazil. The project leader is Mauro. It is a brand new child aid project that begins in 2008.

We have done until now a lot of things:

a-   Every week I give English classes in Itiuba for people of all ages. I give two hours of classes.

b-   Every week I give computer classes in Itiuba for people of all ages. I give two hours of classes.

c-   Every week I give English classes for the area leaders in my village. I give twice a week one hour each day.

d-   Every week I give theater classes for young people in my village, Cacimbas. I give two hours of classes.

e-   Every week I give singing classes in another community next to mine. I give one hour every Sunday.

f-    We have done 9 vegetable gardens.

g-   We have organized 4 community cleaning actions.

h-   We are participating in the meetings to organize a free market in Cacimbas.

i-     I had interview 12 families to know their reality.

j-     We solve part of the water problem in Fazenda Sao Bento getting a cistern from the city government.

k-   We organized the community of Sao Bento to dig a water whole.

l-     We do a cinema session every Saturday afternoon in our community as an entertainment activity for youths and children.

m- I got a donation of U$S 460 dollars from Anna Willinsky in USA to buy material to start the vegetable gardens.

n-   We started a micro credit project to allow the families to improve their life conditions buying fence for the gardens, water filters, etc.

  • o-   We are participating in the organization of children’s day party.

p-   Every Sunday we participate of the meetings at HUMANA’s office discussing the problems, finding solutions and giving new ideas.

q-   We are creating a blog to promote hand crafts that a group of woman from a community close to the one we live do.

r-    We participated in the special weekend organized by HUMANA’s staff to encourage the people working at the project.

s-   We participated in local associations meetings to know better our community.

t-     We participated in a HUMANA’s action intended to increase the number of families being part of the project.

u-   We made a raffle to raise money to increase our micro credit project. We ask our students in Itiuba to sell the raffle.

  1. 3. Status of the family task list

Here the project is organized in a different way. The project leader ask us to use the task list just as a guide but we do the things that we think are more needed at this particular reality and also, we do the things that are possible tacking account of the lack of money and human resources in our community. Our area has 6 agents working together with the area leader but just two of them really work, the rest are over there for political reasons. Our project leader tried to unit all the association’s presidents and political sectors working together for the community; but in our community just two of them work.

  1. 4. Action weeks – results, impact on the community and plans

Every single week here has been an action week for us. Every week we have an activity that involves a group of families: cinema, doing vegetable gardens, community actions, meetings.

  1. 5. Plans and goals for next 2 months

a-   We are planning to increase the founds of the micro credit project to reach more families. The next projects are going to be: buying water filters, do a chicken project.

b-   We are planning to give some nutrition and sexual education classes at the schools in our community.

c-   We are planning to give fruit trees and moringa trees to the families.

d-   I am planning to do a final presentation with my students of theater and singing classes.

  1. 6. Challenges and problems and how have you solved them

a-   The first challenge was the house. It was not in conditions to live so we ask help from HUMANA staff in our community and we improve it.

b-   Second challenge was putting HUMANA staff in action in our community. It was hard to do the interviews because we didn’t know which families should we interview and sometimes no one was there to tell us.

c-   The third challenge was the lack of money. The project was with no money at all so there were no salaries, no money to buy a table and chairs and no money to work. After two months talking with IICD Michigan head master, our project leader and the country director we solve the money problem. I got a donation from USA that allows us to buy material to start working with the families.

d-   The fourth challenge was political issues. The project depends on government money which converts virtually the NGO in a GO: governmental organization. Most of the decisions we take and the activities we do must be approved in some way by the city hall, if not the mayor talks with the governor and then the money don’t come. So, we have to be very carefully and very polite with all the people participating in politics over here. That include some agents that should work in our community but in reality don’t work. Even though, we can not fight with them because of the political issues.

  1. 7. Ideas and plans for the 4th period

– Prepare material for the next teams

– Do a video and a pictures book about the project

– Prepare the things for the team I will coordinate at IICD

– Try to do some presentations outside IICD to present the project to other people.

Good news!!!

•October 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

And  finally the government sent the money for the project!! After almost two months waiting the government sent the money and now the project has new energy.

Last week HUMANA sent someone from Africa´s Head Quarter to control our work and to decided if HUMANA was going to help the project with some money or not. The guy is call Charles.

He is from Zimbabwe and so he just speak English wich make things a little more difficult because in Cacimbas none speaks English, so we have to translate all the conversation.

Charles looked very impress with our work and admit that it was a big mistake not to send money before to help the project. Now he was here and if he believes that things were running as it should be then he will ask HUMANA to help us.

It seems that he liked our job because three days ago HUMANA decided to send some money…. but as always HUMANA is late. Now, the money from the government arrive and so we don´t need anymore HUMANA´s money.

To me it looks like something that can not be. HUMANA can´t say that this is a HUMANA´s project if they only put their name and logo. They let the project without money for two months, putting on risk all the work that has been done until now. The project has just begin and so it needs to be trustfully. The mistake was big, and it shouldnn´t happen again, but Mauro, our project leader, manage the situation very well and so, even though the project was out of money things were running.

Now thing are better, the money arrives, HUMANA is satisfied with our work and we are working very hard.

Last week I started singing classes in Pedra Solta, I had 8 students and it was a very nice class. I start to prepare to the final work for my theater students and it looks like is gonna be a really good thing, I choose as a topic: children´s rights.

The vegetable gardens are going good, now we are getting more help from the coordinators and we  continue with the work related with the free market.

Last weekend we had a meeting with the mayor were she compromised to help us with infrastructure issues that are to expensive to be done by the project.

This week we went to the Mayor’s office to talk about a cistern to Sao Bento. They are desperate because they run out of water so they really need the cistern. the good notice is that the mayor say yes, and they already constructing it.

Now we are planning our next projects: water filters and chickens to the families.  about the vegetable gardens we need to solve some problems with ants, they really like the garden!

My second Report

•September 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

2nd Report of Santiago Massano Itiúba 2009

After a little more than one month here we finally started constructing the vegetable gardens. Our project is out of money but I got a donation from one friend, Anna, from USA so that help us to but the material for the gardens.

Yesterday we started with that. Is a really heavy work, the soil is almost like rock and the sun is very strong, but is wonderful to feel that you are rally helping a family.

We did just two gardens that took us almost 7 hours. The families helped us a lot, and they offer us something to drink and eat while we were working. There are not too many families wanting a garden, but those that wants, really wants.

The money I got from donation is enough but I thought we can do much more with that money if instead of giving it for free we start a micro credit project.

Most of the families here have no fence for the garden and they have no money to buy it. The fence is really necessary because here most of the families have chickens and those animals can destroy the garden if there is no fence. So, that is why we bought the fence but we don’t give that for free for the families, we gave them the fence as a loan to be paid in several months.

We did a meeting with all our families before starting and we ask them who wanted a vegetable garden, who can manage to find a fence and who need a micro credit for the fence.

The rules for the micro credit are very simple:

–         the minimal amount a family can pay each month is 3 Reais (like U$S1,5)

–         they choose if they want to pay the minimal amount or a higher one (and so, they decide in how many parts they will pay the debt)

–         If they don’t pay the only consequence is that they can’t get another micro credit.

–         If they don’t have money to pay one moth they can pay next month.

–         There is NO interest charge for any reason.

After the meeting we had 15 families that wanted a vegetable garden, 10 of them need a micro credit.

We did too two community actions in order to clean the feel where the free market is going to be established. It was a success; more than 24 families were working on it.

Next Friday we have another community action to dig a whole to find water. They already have a water whole but is drying so they need a new one. This is very important for the community because if not they need to buy the water and spend a lot of money on it.

We are planning to a party for children’s day on 12th October. Is going to be a big party and our responsibility is to find some food donation in the markets.

During next weeks we will still work with the vegetable gardens and with latrines. The latrines are going to be done as a micro credit project too.

The community looks excited about this micro credit project, they seem to understand than in this way the money will stay in the community forever, and so, after a couple of months of paying there will be enough money again to start new projects for the families.

The micro credit assures to that the family has some compromise too with the project, and don’t hit the family economy as every family choose the conditions in which they are going to pay.

This Sunday we are going to another community to collect some material of a group of woman that work with Kraft production. This group is going to apply for a government program but they need to present some multimedia material together with the application form, so I’m going to record a video and take some good pictures to present their work.

I am continuing with the English and computer classes in Itiuba, and with the theater classes and English classes in Cacimbas.

Now the dry is coming and so the problems appear in the community. For example the running water is not coming during the days, the water supplies on the fields are getting dry, and the animals are running out of food.

Thanks to our headmaster in IICD Michigan we receive our allowance and money to buy table and chairs so now the things are getting better for us.

The project has not that luck, our project is still without money and so the project leader had give holidays for everybody next week because there is even no money for gas. Even though he is still fighting to run the project even with nothing, and we are in that fight too. Now we are making the difference, Cacimbas is the only area with money to start new projects and so we are working as hard as possible.

I want to give a special THANKS to Anna for the donation she gave us and to Trine for the help she is giving here.

1st report about Itiuba’s Project

•August 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Here I am, Saturday morning enjoying a little free time with my computer on a chair (the only chair in the house) and my self seating on a table that we put over some blocks that we call sofa.

This is how we leave now, out of the facilities of IICD life, now we are living in one of the poorest communities in Brazil, living in some way as they live. When we arrive to the house it was not ready to receive people, part because the project got out of money so they couldn’t by all the furniture, part because no one check the house before bringing us to it.

The house was without running water on the bathroom and in the kitchen. We only had one tap on the backyard. From there we had to take the water to go to the bathroom, to wash the dishes, to take a shower, etc.

There were (and still now) no table and chairs (just one broken chair that we use as a table, chair, stair, etc), no mosquito nets on the beds, no light in one of the rooms and just two plugs.

I think every one can imagine how nice is to arrive after one month travelling to a house in that conditions… but, is in that situations when you have to remember why you are here, and try to put the best disposition to try to improve the things. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to accept what should not be like that. One thing is very clear: Humana will have to learn that they can not treat volunteers as they want; Humana will have to learn that to fight against poverty you have to be living in acceptable conditions so you are strong enough to give the best of yourself in the projects. Humana will have to learn that you are not just a tourist that they are supporting with their money, you are a professional that leaves all your life behind to become in a poverty fighter and so you deserve to be treated as anyone else in Humana staff.

So, because of that, we put the best of our selves in improving the house: we went to the stores to by some materials to fix the water and electricity problem, we find some people in the community that helped us to fix the things, we improvise a sofa with some of the trash that was on our backyard, we cleaned the house, etc. Buying the things was another problem: the project was out of money because the state of Bahia didn’t sent the money to them on time, so, there were several things that we had to buy with our on money (another thing that should be unacceptable after you have paid a lot of money to be here, and after you have made a hard fundraising…. But this thing, anyway, we could understand that it was not totally Humana’s fault). So, part of the things we bought with our money and the rest Mauro (our project leader) took us to some stores were he can pay at the end of the month so we didn’t need to use our money in that things.

That is how we started… but, even though it could look like we were mad and sad, it was not like that, at least not me. I was happy to be here, I was with energies enough to fix my house and to try to see over all this and just concentrate my self in the project.

Our project leader seams to be very cool guy, with a lot of energies and ideas. He was very nice with us, he receive us, talk with us about our tasks, about the project, the people in Humana, etc. He took us to the stores to buy some food and things for the house and he drove us home.

He said to use that we were lucky to be treated like that, because usually the volunteers are almost ignored in all Humana’s projects. I appreciated that Mauro treat us like that and that he wanted to change that thing in Humana, but I don’t think that we were lucky; I think all the volunteers should be treated like that.

After a couple of days we started with our first task: interviewing the families that we were going to work with. In order to do that we were helped by Nega, one of the Humana agents in the area were we are working. She is the president of the association of inhabitants of Cacimbas, the village were we live.  She knows very well the community so it was good to be with her. She introduce us to most of the families which was good because we entered into their houses with a person that they already knew, so they felt more comfortable and we too.

Doing the interviews is nice because you can really know the families and their way of life. The interview is long and is not that easy to be done, so, before doing the interviews we had a course in Humana’s office to train how to do the interviews. That was very useful because other wise we would commit a lot of mistakes.

Is very important that interview is well done because this information will be send it to the state of Bahia in order to get resources for the families.

We had to do 12 interviews each one of us. The families were divided in three different communities: Cacimbas, Calderaouzinho and Fazenda Sao Bento. Calderaouzinho and Fazenda Sao Bento are 3km away from Cacimbas so Humana gave us three bikes to go there. I really recommend DON’T use those bikes: they are really dangerous. All of the agents already had a lot of accidents with those bikes.  I had an accident too. These bikes look like the cheapest on the market and so they are very low quality. The roads here are not good at all, full of stones, wholes, sand and clay. When you ride the bikes the parts star falling until you have just a mountain of aluminum and screws.  When I was riding my bike one of the parts felt down and got stuck on the weal so I literally flew over the bike and felt down in the road; hopefully nothing bad happens to me because I was driving very slowly.  After that we decided that it was better to go by walk to these communities.

I think that the projects shouldn’t send the volunteers out of their communities to work because you loose a lot of time in doing that. Here there is no public transportation to go there, the bikes are awful, if it is raining the roads are full of clay so it is very difficult to go from one place to the other. I know that Humana decided that the volunteers should be living inside the community were they are working in order to make them know better the community and to save time moving from one place to the other, so it looks like no sense to make us go to two different communities to work instead of making us work only were we are living, which will give us more time to know much better our community.

The families here are very poor, most of them have no latrine or any place to go to the bathroom; just few of them have running water. Most of them have a very low income so they can only eat beans, flour, and corn. Almost none of the families eat vegetables or fruits, and just few of them give milk to the children.

In some of the houses there are more than 10 people living with less than U$S200 a month.

The good news is that the running water arrives to the community so in a short period of time everybody will be able to have water in their houses and so, have a vegetable garden.

One of the things that we are learning here is that in Bahia the biggest problem is not the lack of water but the lack of education. Here there are a lot of agricultural activities that can be done with almost no water, using native plants that are used to this climate. But, people here almost don’t know anything about that. Some of them don’t know because they didn’t have the opportunity, others don’t know just because they don’t want.

Humana has here some technicians that will help people to improve their agricultural techniques so they can get more from the soil. These people are working very hard, doing some researches and finding founds to develop some projects that will help the communities.  I have with me a book that Mauro borrows me that talks about what can be cultivate in this part of Brazil, is actually a VERY GOOD book that I will take to IICD so next volunteers can read about that before coming here.

When I came here I thought that this was a desert with almost no chances. After reading that book you realize that this is a very reach area, and that A LOT of things can be done here.  Is good if next volunteers read this book because then they will have a better idea of Bahia before coming, which will give you more tools to work here.

Now that the volunteers arrive, Humana start giving some courses for the people in Itiuba and in Cacimbas. We have to go three times to Itiuba to give English and computer classes. Our classes are very popular and people here really like to learn; they are all the time asking for more courses and more hours of classes. Next week we will start with dance classes, origami classes and theater classes in Cacimbas, our community. Here the idea is to make some things for the teenagers so they have something better to do than be drinking or having sex.

Apart from that we will start today with a cinema every Saturday. The idea is to put funny but educative movies so the community gets fun and education at the same time. Here there is no fun for young people: there are just some bars were the people go to drink and just one place were they can play videogames. This is way we think that the cinema is a good idea.

Every Saturday, before the cinema, we will talk about some important issues: recycling, sexual education, nutrition, taking action, etc. The idea is take advantage of the people who go to the cinema to have fun and teach them something important.

Now we are planning our first community action that would be to reform the little square they have here: make more banks, paint it and put some plants.

We are planning too a recycling action. The idea is to ask the people from Cacimbas to separate the trash so the recyclable material can be sell and the organic material can be use in the soil as a fertilizer. The rest of the trash has to be burn, because until now we can’t find a better solution. But anyway, at this moment all the trash is being burn, so it will make a big difference to diminish that.

Yesterday we participated too in a meeting with the community organized by Humana’s people. They are trying to make a free market here so the community can sell things and get more money. Here all the people go to Itiuba to buy fruits, vegetables, meet and other stuffs. The idea is that since December people will not need to go to Itiuba anymore because they will have their free market over here, and so, the money stays into the community.

One of the things that needs to be done to make the free market is clean the area that will be used to put the tends. We were thinking and we will offer to Humana organize that community action so we can collaborate too with the free market project.

This free market will be good for the next volunteers too because they will not have to go to Itiuba on Saturdays to buy the vegetables and fruits.

Other thing that next volunteers should know is that transportation here is very bad. From Cacimbas to Itiuba you have 3 or 4 busses (it depends on the day) that leave between 6 and 7 am. Then, from Itiuba to Cacimbas you have 3 busses that leave Itiuba between 12:00pm and 12:30pm. So, if you miss the bus at noon you will have to stay in Itiuba or find some one to drive you home. Sometimes there is a buss in the afternoon going to Itiuba and a bus coming from Itiuba at night, but is not always and is a scholar buss, so if you wan to take it you have to ask for an authorization in the City Hall. You NEVER know the time the busses are leaving, is really unpredictable: sometimes they go early, sometimes they go late; so, is better if you are in the buss stop some minutes before the time.  Most of the times the busses breaks, so you have to wait more than one hour until some one fix it.

I can see that this report could looks like to negative, don’t misunderstood me: I am enjoying my time here and like my project, but there are several things that needs to be improve and the only way things will be improve is if we realize that this things exists. So, that is way I’m writing about everything: the good and the bad things; but, at the same time, I’m doing my best here to improve the bad things. I know that this project is new and Mauro and all his staff is doing their best effort and that is way I’m not mad or sad, I’m just realistic.

I’m pretty sure that most of the things that need to be improved are going to be better at the end of our period here. For example, the house is much better now after our work on it. Mauro promise us that we will have a table and chairs as soon as the project gets the money.

We will talk with Mauro about the convenience of making the volunteers work in their own community in order to save time and to get a better knowledge about the community.

Two extra things. The first one is about health. The health system in Itiuba is terrible. One of the agents of Humana felt down of his motorbike and broke a bon. There were no ambulance to take him to the hospital, and they make the surgery just 5 days after the accident. So, please take care here, don’t ride those bikes on the roads, don’t do dangerous things, and, if some of the agents of Humana take you in their motorbikes, please use helmet.

Second thing, most of the times Humana will ask you to fundraise material and stuffs for the projects. I think they should reconsider that taking account that you are living in an isolated place, with no telephone or internet, and in a very poor community were the inhabitants can’t donate anything. As Humana knows, doing fundraising takes A LOT of time and need of preparation and tools. So, they should reconsider that, because you need materials to do your activities and that can’t depend on your capacity of doing fundraising or material raising in an isolated and poor place.

I almost forgot, one more thing: LEARN PORTUGUSES BEFORE COMING HERE. You CAN’T WORK without knowing Portuguese. Min Jung, a Korean girl in our team is depending ALL the time in some one to go with here to do the work with the families because she can’t speak Portuguese until now and that is very uncomfortable for her because not all the time she has someone to go with here. In the meetings that we have every Monday all the people speaks in Portuguese so you will not understand ANYTHING if you don’t speak the language.  Also you will get very depress if you don’t speak the language because you will not be able to talk with people, to hang around with the members of the community or to talk with the agents; so, take it seriously: DON’T COME HERE WITHOUT KNOWING THE LANGUAGE, YOU WILL HAVE A VER VERY HARD TIME.

Something for you to be happy: the people from the community are VERY nice. They always welcome you to your houses and offer you water or coffee. One day, one of the mothers of a family I interviewed came home to offer me some corn that she cocked for me: they have almost nothing but even though they want to share the nothing they have, is their way to say thank you for your time with them. On the other hand that put me more pressure to do my job as good as possible because these families really believe in me, and really believe that this is their chance to improve their lives. Another thing that really makes me happy is one of the volunteers agents that Humana has in Cacimbas, his name is Tacio. He is a really nice guy that help us A LOT to improve our house. He was always asking if we need something, offering his help and coming home to invite us to do something on our free time. He was really happy to have us here, and we are happy to meet him.

One curios thing: at the beginning, when Mauro said to the agents of Humana that the volunteers were coming, no one of them want us in their communities. They didn’t know what we were going to do and they were afraid of which kind of people were we.

After two weeks here now all the agents wants volunteers in their community, so they are fighting to see who will have the next group of volunteers. Knowing that make me feel very good because it means that our work is being appreciated and useful.

Another extra comment deserves the co-project leader, Rodrigo. He is being very nice with use and all the time he is asking about how we are going and what do we need. Today he said to us that once we finish with the interviews we can see if we can start helping the families with latrines and vegetable gardens.

Our Journey to Brazil Part 4

•August 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Our Journey to Brazil Part 4

Salvador de Bahia, now we are here just for two days. Salvador is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited in Brazil until now. This city was the first capital of Brazil and because of that has many old constructions.  The first day we couldn’t visit any place, just at night we went to have a walk on the beach and we saw a groups of gays playing some boll games… it was very funny because they were making a lot of jokes so we really laugh a lot.

The second day we woke up very early and we went to the historic center and a neighborhood called Pelourinho. This place is were the city started so is full of history and is like the postal card place of Salvador. Is a neighborhood constructed on the mountains in front of the see, and it’s full of old houses painted in many colors… you can always hear some percussion music on the street and the sideways are replete of people selling crafts typical from Salvador.

We walked all around the neighborhood because is nice just to see it. You have to take care of your things, people here said that it was full of rovers… we didn’t have any problem, but we saw a lot of security guys around the area.

The Pelourinho is full of art, full of churches, which shows the strong religion tradition on the city of Salvador, full of colors which is a just the reflect of the happiness of the people of Salvador.

IN the afternoon we went to visit and NGO that is located in a Fabella called Saramandaia. The NGO is called Grupo Cultural Arte Consciente. If you want to visit them you can contact Fabio Santos de Jesus (Tel: (71) 3491.2124/ (71) 8223.7387 / (71) 8879.7756 or programaarteconsciente@hotmail.com).

They are a cultural center that gives dance, graffiti, box, cirqus and percussion classes to poor children. The kids have just one requisite to go there: go to the regular school.

The group was created by for young people that some years ago were street children. They were rescued from the street by a social project called Projeto Axe and now they feel the obligation of do the same with the children of their community.

At the beginning all the classes were given on the street because they didn’t have a physic place to do it. Now they are constructing a space for the NG that consists in three classrooms, one office and one kitchen that is going to prepare food for the children.

The constructors are them, and they get the money from     another NGO situated in Rio de Janeiro.

This NGO sends volunteers to work in Projeto Arte Consciente, and for each volunteer that the project receives they have the right to get R$300. So, with that money they are constructing the space for the NGO… of course, it is taking a long time to do it, because of the money and because they can’t pay for constructors, they have to do it by them selves.

One of the main achievements of the project has been the reduction of the violence index on the community. Since they are working there, children had something more interesting to do, they can see a better future now, and the community respects a lot their work.

Six years ago it was almost impossible to walk on the streets of Saramandaia; today you can do it almost without problem. That doesn’t mean that all the problems are solved: now they are trying to fight against the drugs traffic, and they continue asking to the city government for the basic services that the community needs.

Another important thing is that since they are working the children have a space for leisure, which is very important. The community doesn’t have any yard, or football yard, or any kind of space for leisure, so the children have to stay on the street very close to the violence and the drugs. Now, they had created that leisure space, they created festivals and cultural events so the community can enjoy together and see the output of months of hard work.

Now they have 250 children, they want to have more but they don’t have space. The mothers ask them to receive their children because they can’t handle with them, so sometimes when the people from the project see that is better to receive the child they receive him/her even thought they don’t have more space.

The project is really great, but, as most of social projects they need more resources and people. They receive volunteers so if you want to stay some days with them and help them you are welcome.

On the 31st of July we arrive to Rio de Janerio. We took an airplane from Salvador to Rio, the company was Azul. You can check on www.voeazul.com to try to find cheap tickets, on our case was cheaper the airplane than the bus.

Once we arrive Helcio was waiting for us to drive us to the house. The house is in Sao Cristovao, a low middle class neighborhood not too far from downtown. The place is not bad; there are no favelas close to the house, even though there are a lot of homeless on the streets.

Even though we had contacted two NGO and one person that knows several NGOs in Rio, just this last person answer when we arrive to Rio. Her name was Leandra and she was contacted by Yasuaki because both of them are Buddhist.

Lenadra made some calls and we got a meeting with Projeto Afro Reaggae on the favela Canta Galo, and with Assesoria Comunitaria on the favela Rocinha.

Projeto Afro Reggae (www.afroreggae.org.br) started 16 years ago as a social newspaper that talks about the black people situation in Brazil. At that time they got the money making parties of Funky music, but at some point the government of Rio de Janeiro forbid that kind of parties so they have to change to Samba Reggae parties.

Some years after that there were some fights between the police and the people from the favelas and a lot of people died. Once the people from Afro Reggae saw this situation they started to develop social projects.

At this moment they are working with 2000 people in a direct way and with more people in indirect ways. They have 64 projects in Brazil and 11 projects abroad.

For the projects abroad what they do is travel to the city were someone ask for them to came and they start the project. At the same time they give courses to form the people who are going to work in the project. The formation they receive is very particular: they are formed with the methodology of a Circus that is based on the methodology of the native’s communities. In a circus everybody is equal; there are no people more important than other. Once the local people are formed they leave the project there so the locals can run it by themselves.

In the community were we went there were 23 different social projects running at the same time. On one hand this is good because that means that people is attended an they have were to go when they need something, but in the other hand this show a sad reality: most of the projects are located on the south area because is the reaches area of Rio de Janeiro, so there are people interested in maintain this area out of conflicts and people living on the streets.  On the north area, the poorest one, there are almost no projects which means that the are were the people with biggest necessities lives is the area with less social coverage.

On Afro Reggae we talked with Boris, the head master (boris.trindade@afroreggae.org.br; boristrindadejr@hotmail.com), he explained to us that they have a very unique method to approach the teenagers when they want to convince them to be part of the project.

Usually teenagers go with the drug dealers because is with them were they can find: girls, fun, music and nice clothe. So, from Afro Reggae they offer the teenagers the same things but in a safety environment: there are girls in the projects, they can dance and study percussion, and they can get imported clothe if they travel abroad with the project.

Afro Reggae offers dance classes and circus classes on this community. Even though, their objective is not to form professional dancers or professionals in circus issues but to form citizens. So, after the classes they dedicated some time to talk about issues like drugs, sex, violence, etc. These talks are assisted by professionals as: social workers and psychologists.

In this building, donate by the government Afro Reggae works with 100 people in a daily basis. In order to do that they hired 20 professionals from the favela. This people receives a normal salary for a full time job, they don’t work with volunteers.

They get the money from Sponsors and from some income generating activities: they sell t-shirts of Afro Reggae of Hering brand, and they charge money to make presentations outside the favela. Some times the government, some schools or private people ask to the group to make some performance, so the project charges some money to do that.

The only requisite to enter into the project is to go the school on a regular basis if the person has an age were they suppose to go to school.

Apart from the classes they can give psychological attention and food fro those who need it.

On the same building were this NGO is working there is another NGO that works with street children and is supported by the UNESCO, is called “Criança Esperança” so if you have time is a good idea to contact them and visit them.

The second NGO was called Assesoria Comunitaria and it was located on the biggest favela of Rio de Janeiro: Rocinha. This NGO is new, it only has one year working but it seams like they are having great results.

Once a week they go to the poorest area of the favela to give some food for free, there they have the opportunity of talk with people and find out their mains problems. That is the first contact with the family. From there, they give company to the families and offer them assistance in issues like: judicial things, accountant things, health things and so on.

They have professionals like lawyers, social workers and pedagogues that helps the people for free to solve their problems.

In order to run this organization they receive money from another NGO called “Associaçao de Moradores da Rocinha”. This NGO receives money from the people that has some kind of business on the favela: motto taxis, supermarkets, fast food stores, etc. All the workers of the NGO are volunteers, and all of them had some kind of relationship with the favela.

Even though at the beginning was hard to believe this favela has all kind of stores inside, even a store that sells flight tickets. I was curios so I asked how this can be possible and the answer was simple: here people consumes, there are a lot of people and now one will still anything from you ¿why should not open a store?. Of course, there stores were on the main street were the public transport enters and were there is a big movement of people. Not all the Rocinha is like that; Rocinha has too small streets with no business and a lot of problems.

Another thing that called my attention was the one related with robbers. I asked several times and the answer was always the same: there are no robbers here, no one will still anything from you inside the favela. The drugs dealers don’t aloud people from the favela to still, at least inside the favela.

In the same NGO there was a man called Ocimar Santos (ocimarsantos@rocinha.org) that has another NGO called Rocinha.org (www.rocinha.org). This NGO works mainly with the website. Here people can fin jobs and make some ads asking thins, looking for person, etc.

The main activity of this NGO is to make a bound between the companies that are looking for workers on the south area and the people unemployed on the favela.  After 3 months of existence this NGO has found jobs for 300 people, which means that 300 people had abandoned the streets and the drugs business to work as legal workers on legal business.

Ocimar was telling us that there are a lot of people that came to him saying that they want to be out of the drugs business and change their life because they don’t want to die. So, Ocimar helps them to make their legal documents and find a decent job.

Ocimar knows very good the situation on the favela because he was born there, and he lived there until 6 years ago. Now he is married and he lives outside the favela and he wants to show his example to other people in the favela to convince them that there is another future possible, a better one, out of the drugs and the violence.

Of course, there is another Rio, the one prepare four tourists. We couldn’t do too much of this because the weather wasn’t good and because we spent a lot of time just trying to make contact with the NGOs.

We went to Copacabana beach which is very nice but cold in this time of the year.  We went to the Corcovado were you can see the Cristo Redentor. From there you can have a nice view and have an idea of the favelas problem in Rio de Janeiro: there are almost 800 favelas on Rio, they are everywhere, and they are growing.

If you have more time you can visit a lot of interest places in Rio: Ipanema, Feria do Zaara, Palacio Duque das Caixas, Museo Nacional, Zoologico, Igreja Candelaria, etc.

From the house there is a buss that goes to several places that you can visit. The buss is the 472 and it goes to: downtown, flamengo, botafogo, Igreja Candelaria, cityhall, Terminal Central (place were you can take busses to almost all the city), Santos Dumont Airport, Botafogo Yatch Club, Palacio Duque das Caixas, National Museum, Botafogo Praia Shopping, Rio Sul Shopping, etc.

If you want to the Corcovado you have to take a the 472 until the Terminal Central and there, on the same side of the street you take the 422 until the base of the Corcovado. The Corcovado tours cost between R$36 and R$40; it depends if you decide to do it by train or by car (with a driver).

In the neighborhood were the house is you are close to the Zoo and to the Centro Cultural da Cultura Nordestina, a place were you can find typical thing from the northeast of Brazil (it cost R$1 to enter and personally I didn’t found it interesting).

The rest of the team went to Petropolis, and old city close to Rio were the nobles use to go on holydays. You can read about that on Sofi’s report, I didn’t went because I was sick. If you want to go you can contact Karin or Avandson , they are very nice people and they wanted to know more volunteers.  They are friends of Leandra Marun , the girl that make the contacts with NGOs. This three people are Buddhist so if you have some Buddhist on the group they will be very happy in know him/her.


–          When doing internet reservation always triple check your airports. Sometimes the webpage changes them without asking you.

–          Do not book itineraries with connections with a difference smaller than one hour; or be ready to loose a connection.

–          Put at least four days on the first city because if you loose the flights connections you can loose one or two days.

–          In São Paulo airport some airline offices are quite hidden, and change places often so, if you need to rebook it is better to ask for the location to the federal police before looking for it with your entire luggage.

–          On the boat we bought a “camarote”, and 6 hammocks. We bought the “camarote” manly for luggage security but, when we got into the boat we discovered that what we bought was only a bed, and we would need to share the room. As so, we need to convert one of our hammock tickets in to a “camarote” bed. Check if what you are buying is a full “camarote”.

–          Food on the ship is ALWAYS the same, ALL the meals, so, if you have time to buy some extra food outside before leaving the port is better.

–          If you stay in Barreirinhas is better to pay for a Pousada, is actually very cheap (from R$10 t0 R$20 for two persons with breakfast).

–          Do not bring traveler checks to Brazil, they are almost impossible to change in Brazil. Only few exchange houses change them and you need to be sure that your signature on the check is the same as in your passport (for Japanese that means that if your signature on your passport is in Japanese characters, on the traveler check should be on Japanese characters too).

–          In Canoa Quebrada, the people in Recicriança helped us to find a place to stay paying R10 per person. They also told us that if we had told them in advance that we needed a place that could find one for us.

–          After buying the ticket a person tells you to follow him/her and then some people start to carry your stuff. Beforehand check if you are going to need to pay it separately.

–          Try to visit less cities and stay there more time, you will rest more, have a better idea of the place and you will spend less money in transportation.

–          Try to put (if possible) R$20 per day per person for food, we putted R$10 and in some places that was not enough at all.

–          Before leaving USA make a excel file with the information about where to sleep, which NGOs you will visit and which touristic places you can go and then print a copy for every member of the team.

–          By a chip for cellular phone in Brazil if a member of your team has an unblocked cell phone; other wise buy public cell phones cards to use on the public phones. Remember that every time you will make a call to a phone that doesn’t belong to the same area were you are you must add before the number the following numbers: 031 or 041.

–          Put on your budget money for public transportation in the cities and for phone calls. You will spend a lot of money in that.

–          Don’t let more than one people take care of the money. Take not of every spend your team makes (is better if you have the money, paper and a pen on the same place so every time you spend you can take note).

–          Create and Excel file with the money issues were you should put the date, the amount spent and the description of the thing you spent money on. At the end of the day transcript your things from the paper to the Excel file and control that there is no missing money.

–          Take good notes of busses companies, places to sleep and visit, NGOs and other important issues for the next teams.

–          Be ready for unexpected things and save money for that. Try to have options (like to contacts were to sleep in case one of them says no).

–          Be nice with the people you know on the NGOs and on the houses you sleep, the next volunteers could need their help too.

–          Try to stick together all the time, if the team divides you will spend more money and time. If anyway you need to separate, be shore that everybody has enough money to pay all the things until you get reunited again.

–          There are some companies that don’t aloud you to pay with debit cards, so if you have the team money on an account and you need to spend in one day more than R$600 you will have to make 2 withdraw in two different days (because in some places the maximum amount you can withdraw is R$600 per day).

–          Don’t carry big baggage because is really difficult to enter into the urban busses, is heavy to walk and you will get tired easily. Bring backpacks, they are better than suitcases to walk and carry them on busses. Even is possible that transport companies want to charge you excess of baggage, and it is VERY expensive. As an option you can take an airplane direct to Salvador from USA and ask Ricardo to take care of part of your baggage until you get there. Ricardo leaves in Salvador and he works for Humana

–          Ask Trine for the excels files I will give her with our budget, our description of the expenses of the team during the travel, the list of Places to sleep, places to visit, and NGO contacts. Ask her too a file with the names of the busses companies that you can use to between cities.

Our Journey to Brazil Part 3

•July 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The state of Maranhao is the poorest state on the legal Amazon (I learn that from a research that IMAZON made two years ago). You can really notice that when you are travelling on the bus. The houses are made of clay blocks with wood between them, they are very small and usually they are almost empty, without almost any furniture (you can see that because the door and the windows are usually open during the day).

Some of the houses have some animals, cows or dunks, but they looked very skinny. I could see all the family in front of the house doing nothing, even though it was Monday morning (that was the day we came back from Barreirinhas). From that you can deduce that the parents have no job and the children are not going to the school. I couldn’t see any school close to these houses; just some bars were the men were drinking bear and some very small markets.

Every community has a church, and usually the stores and the houses have written on the wall some message for Jesus or God. 

We arrive to Barreirinhas at 1pm. The city is really, really small. Everything is very close. I was expecting to see a small city but a nice city because this city has a lot of tourist all the year because of the Lençois Maranhenses.  But, the city was very poor and ugly. The streets have no asphalt and the houses look like if no one take care of them. Is a shame because the place were the city is located is actually beautiful, but it looks like no one cares about the village.

We stay in Regina’s house, she is very polite and the house was good. The problem was that we were too many in the house because she was not expecting us and because all her family was there. She receive us because the one who suppose to do it couldn’t due to work issues. He works with tourists and it results that July is a month full of tourist on that area. But, because we were too many in Regina’s house a friend of her invite part of the group to his house.

He was Alexandre, he was very nice but his house wasn’t at all. We really experience how is to live under the line of poverty (of course with some exceptions). The house was almost abandoned, it was full of trash everywhere and there were a lot of spiders all over the place. The bathroom was not working, there was no electricity and no place to cook. We didn’t had any chair to have sit, and there were no door between the bathroom and the bedroom so when we were on the bed we could see the one that was taking a shower. There was no security neither because all the bedrooms of the house were connected by a backyard with no roof.

We did wrong because we didn’t knew, but, sleep in a Pousada (like a hostel) is very cheep. You can fin Pousadas for R$10 the night with breakfast. The food is cheap there too, there are some bars were you can eat like a pancake with cheese and ham, or meet, with salad and rice for R$3,5.

Don’t worry about walking there, is very small so you can go by walk everywhere.

At night we went to a party organize by the city hall. Almost all the city was there. For those who are not from the city it was a sad image of it. There were a lot of drunken people sleeping on the floor a few meters away from the bar were they were drinking. Is really sad to see what alcohol can do in people that had no control over them selves. Even though it was sad, I think it was good for us because it remember us why we have this alcohol rule in IICD and why we have to fight against this uncontrolled way of drinking alcohol. This people were not able to go to work next day. Of course, maybe they didn’t have a job and that’s why there were drinking, but they would not get a job if they are in that conditions.  

I could see that Barreirinhas is very open mind in sexuality things, as most of the Brazil is, because we could see a lot of gays and travesties walking around without hiding their sexual choice.

Next day we talk with Alexander about a project that he was preparing. He works with a group of volunteers dedicated to rescue situations and first aid. The hospital on the area is very bad according to him so this group is really need it. Now he was planning to work with his volunteers in a waste plan for the village. The idea is to encourage the recycling and selective collection of waste material to improve the sanitary conditions of the village and to give a job option for those who live from the trash.

It sounds like a good plan and he asked us to write him if we see some ideas that can help him, and he promised too to write us if he see some ideas that could work in our project.

After that we went to the Lençois Maranhenses National Park. This place is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Is a place full of dunes and lagoons of rain water. It looks like a dissert with thousands of oasis.

From Barreirinhas to the entrance of the park you have a trail of 30 minutes that is an adventure. You go in this bus very fast on the sand and the bus is moving like crazy because is very difficult to drive in the sand. Then, in the middle of the trail there are some lagoons that you have to cross and the water is very high so some times your feet get wet. Is a little scary and our driver was one of the craziest ones so we did all the effort to go for the more difficult places and as fast as possible. We had a lot of fun!

Then we arrive to the park, you really think that you are in paradise. You start seeing the dunes, and ones you climb the first one the lagoons appears. These lagoons are made of rain water, so they are very clean. The water is transparent and blue and warm. They have three meters of deep so you can always see the bottom if you out your head under the water. In those lagoons that are not to close from the entrance you can drink their water.

The first lagoon was the Preguiça Lagoon and then you can swim for a while, then you have the Lagoa Azul where you can swim a little more and then you can start walking around the dunes and the lagoons. Is really nice to walk between the dunes and take pictures. Even though the park is open all the year, the best time to go is on the rainy season (March to June) or just after, July. During December, January and February there are no lagoons, so the park looks different and you can’t take a bath. That doesn’t mean that the view is not good, is just different.

On the way back while you wait for the ship that helps you to cross the river with the buss you can enjoy some local food. There is a group of local people that sells Tapioca (like a pancake) with cheese and ham or with condensate milk and coconut. It cost R$2 and you can have a coffee too for free.

Is good to talk a little with this people while you wait. They are really nice and they are willing to talk with the tourists. It was good to see how the locals developed some small projects to generate an income from it. This was a good idea and everybody was buying.

This people are really poor so is not just that you enjoy a good food, you really feel that you are helping them. The guide told me that the locals use to go to the see to fish. In order to do that they have to walk between 6 and 8 hours crossing the dunes until they find the see.

The next day we take a bus to Sao Luis again because is the only way to go to Fortaleza.

On the way to Canoa Quebrada I could see a lot of windmills; actually I saw some of them in Fortaleza. They belong to a German company that is investing here because is one of the best places in Brazil to generate energy from wind force. This company then sells the energy generated to the state.

On the way back while you wait for the ship that helps you to cross the river with the buss you can enjoy some local food. There is a group of local people that sells Tapioca (like a pancake) with cheese and ham or with condensate milk and coconut. It cost R$2 and you can have a coffee too for free.

Is good to talk a little with this people while you wait. They are really nice and they are willing to talk with the tourists. It was good to see how the locals developed some small projects to generate an income from it. This was a good idea and everybody was buying.

This people are really poor so is not just that you enjoy a good food, you really feel that you are helping them. The guide told me that the locals use to go to the see to fish. In order to do that they have to walk between 6 and 8 hours crossing the dunes until they find the see.

The next day we take a bus to Sao Luis again because is the only way to go to Fortaleza.

The 22nd of July we arrive to Fortaleza. This is actually a very nice, it looks old but well maintained so you really enjoy to walk around the city. We didn’t had too much time there so we just visit some places like the Cathedral, the Kraft Market and the English Bridge.  

Next day we had to take a bus from Fortaleza to Canoa Quebrada at 8:30am.

On the way to Canoa Quebrada I could see a lot of windmills; actually I saw some of them in Fortaleza. They belong to a German company that is investing here because is one of the best places in Brazil to generate energy from wind force. This company then sells the energy generated to the state.

Canoa Quebrada is a city full of foreign people. It was a hippie colony some years ago and now part of that spirit is still on the air. Of course, according to the people of the NGO people came here just looking for drugs and sex.

The first day we went to visit and NGO call Recicriança (is like Recychildren), they are focused on environmental education and they monitored the Protected Area of Canoa Quebrada.

They usually give curses related with environmental issues to students of public schools. The students came even from other states in order to have these different classes.  Due to the torusim they started to give sexual education to the children. Fortaleza is known as the world capital of prostitution, and Canoa Quebrada is not far from that reality. It happens that a lot of tourists came to Canoa looking for sex or for some girl to take with them to live in their countries as slaves and sexual partners. So, in order to prevent that and show to the children other options, the NGO started to give sexual education an one of the tools they have is female and male dolls with there sexual parts included, so male toy has penis and female toy has breast and a baby inside.

This dolls are sell too so they are use as a way to generate an income to the families. The toys are made by the mothers of the children that go to Recicriança.

In the NGO 14 people works, some of them were children that spent their youth in there. Every day almost 100 children go to Recicriança to have some courses or just to play or some work with recycled paper.

The NGO gets money from a company that is owned by the head master of Recicriança. This person has a company in Sao Paulo that sell truck parts and he donate a big proportion of his profit to this NGO. They got some money to from companies like Kelloks.

Their work related with monitoring the protected area of Canoa Quebrada is focused on measuring the size of the “falecias” (cliffs in front of the sea). This falecias are being eroded by the sea, the wind and the tourists, so since they started to measure them 11 ago until now, the cliffs had retired 13 matters; that means that 13 meters of land had disappear, that’s more than one meter each year.

Even though this looks like a big problem the government hasn’t done anything. The other thing that they do is organize walks around a trail between the dunes until the see. This trail is very educative because you can see the different ecosystems of the area and learn about how to protect them. 

Part of the trail consists too in visit the windmills located in Canoa Quebrada. These mills belong to a Portuguese company that is investing on the state of Ceará on clean energy. Even though the energy is clean the noise of the windmills is not too nice and they have a big impact on the view. It depends on the place they are located they can look nice or horrible.

They work too collecting information about animals and plants living on the area so they can have more information in order to ask the government to protect the area and give resources to make researches and inform the people.

They have too a small library with some material related with environmental issues but with math and sciences too because they have a place were children can come and do their homework in a comfortable place.

The second day we visited another NGO called Crianças de Luz that at the beginning was a part of Recicriança but after some years they decided to grow so they separate from Recicriança.

They have an official kinder garden (children between 3 and 5 years old) and extra courses for children from 7 to 10 years old. All this courses are for free and here the children receive a free lunch that helps a lot to the economic situation of the poor families.

Now the city government has gave to them another building were they are planning to start a youth club. They have a lot of help from the city government and from many companies in Japan (the headmaster is Japanese) and form another big NGO in Sao Paulo.

Actually recently they got money from a Japanese company that allow them to construct a water pump (that it cost R$4000 including and electric engine to pump the water), a vegetable garden and to hire a nutritionist to improve the lunch they give to the children.

We went on the vacations time but even though we could participate in some singing and dancing classes. These classes were given by some volunteers that they were coming from the NGO in Sao Paulo. It was really fun, I even sing a little with them, some African’s songs.

At the end of the day we took a bus to Aracati that it cost R$2 and it takes 20 minutes, and from there we took a bus to Recife

We arrived to Recife the 25th of July. We took a metro form the bus station to downtown Recife (it cost R$1,4 each ticket) and then the owner of the house were we were going to stay picked us by car. They are friends from my grandmother: Olga Salas and Roberto. They live in Olinda.

Olinda is a city very close to Recife. Olinda was one of the most important cities of the Portuguese empire and it was funded by the Portuguese. Recife was funded by Holland and it was the capital of the Dutch empire on Brazil.

Recife was the first planned city of latinamerica and when the Dutch constructed they decided to burn Olinda, in order to destroy the economic power of the Portuguese empire.

We stayed in Olinda, a very nice city constructed in small mountains in front of the sea. The city is very old and well maintained so is really good to walk around the old part of Olinda. We were very close to the historic part so we went by walk to know the main church of Olinda, the highest point, and other historic constructions.

Now the city government has gave to them another building were they are planning to start a youth club. They have a lot of help from the city government and from many companies in Japan (the headmaster is Japanese) and form another big NGO in Sao Paulo.

Actually recently they got money from a Japanese company that allow them to construct a water pump (that it cost R$4000 including and electric engine to pump the water), a vegetable garden and to hire a nutritionist to improve the lunch they give to the children.

We went on the vacations time but even though we could participate in some singing and dancing classes. These classes were given by some volunteers that they were coming from the NGO in Sao Paulo. It was really fun, I even sing a little with them, some African’s songs.

At the end of the day we took a bus to Aracati, and from there we took a bus to Recife.

We arrived to Recife the 25th of July. We took a metro form the bus station to downtown Recife (it cost R$1,4 each ticket) and then the owner of the house were we were going to stay picked us by car. They are friends from my grandmother: Olga Salas and Roberto. They live in Olinda.

Olinda is a city very close to Recife. Olinda was one of the most important cities of the Portuguese empire and it was funded by the Portuguese. Recife was funded by Holland and it was the capital of the Dutch empire on Brazil.

Recife was the first planned city of latinamerica and when the Dutch constructed they decided to burn Olinda, in order to destroy the economic power of the Portuguese empire.

We stayed in Olinda, a very nice city constructed in small mountains in front of the sea. The city is very old and well maintained so is really good to walk around the old part of Olinda. We were very close to the historic part so we went by walk to know the main church of Olinda, the highest point, and other historic constructions.

Before going we enjoy a nice meal full of fruits, natural juices, and different kinds of breads. It was really nice, after days of eating just very cheap food to eat some home made food.

Roberto was vey nice, he was all the time speaking in English and giving us story classes about Brazil the Portuguese and the Dutch.

The second day we went to downtown Recife to know a little the historic buildings and then we went to a museum that has the biggest private gun collection in the world. It was very interesting and we could see too some paintings of Brazil made for a Dutch painter and some all maps from the colonial times.

After that we make a tour on Catamaran thru the rivers of Recife and we enjoy of a different view of the historic buildings constructed by the Dutch. On interesting thing is that the Dutch choose Recife to start their empire because the geography of Recife is very similar to the geography of Holland.

All the expenses were paid by the couple that was hosting us; it was very nice of them. We really feel at a 5 stars hotel, Olga and Roberto were very good with us… THANK YOU!!

for pictures go to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smassano/