Terra dos Homens

The final meeting organised in my last week of my travels was with the NGO Terra dos Homens. This was one of my first meetings that I had organised over a year ago and helped me gear up to Brazil. Since then new people have been brought into post replacing my original contacts and it feels really strange for it to all end here. The charities’ main offices are in the city where I have arranged to meet Fernanda (Assistant to the director) who will take me out to meet Luciano a director of the ‘local roots’ projects 14km North of the City. I have also arranged to meet Charli my translator in the foyer and we both take the lift up to the small offices on the 4th floor. The offices are the hub of all the work the charity offers to different branches around the country.

Terra dos Homens’ is a nonprofit organisation set up by Claudia Cabral in 1996. Claudia a Brazilian Psychologist who has been involved in the social field since 1977 and after working with the Swiss trans-racial adoption Foundation Terre des Hommes formed her own charity in Rio providing advocacy and support to families unfairly treated by the welfare system. Since then the program of Terra dos Homens has been replicated throughout Brazil. The organisation originally set out to help reintegrate street children back with their families and into the community, now looks at the context of the family as a whole in order to improve their circumstances.

We are traveling with a driver 14km North of Rio to the unpacified favela of Mangueirinha near the city of Caixious to meet Luciano addressing family and community development. Favelas, Vilas or Slums are notorious for drug trafficking and the pacified areas try to control this with police presence. Unpacified means no police presence and drug trafficking continues more openly. The families live their day to day lives, they go out to work, go to college, school, but 1% are unfortunately caught up in the transportation of the illegal activity.

The families work in the neighbouring city of Caixious and I am told that the vila we are about to visit hold families involved in the ‘Waste Land’ film in 2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_Land_(film).
It is hotter out here raising temperatures up to 33c, and I’m told it gets hotter the further out of the town you go up towards the hill. I mustn’t take any photos. I am told that at the moment they are working with construction companies because it is when construction work happens in one area it attracts more people increasing the risk of sexual violation, domestic violence and child exploitation and drug abuse.

As we travel Charli translates from Fernando the three Axis’s of the work Terra dos Homens promotes. The charity is grass roots but has adopted the ‘methodology’ approach for a National and International level. Being a charity they have worked from bottom up and translating approaches on a macro level to Municipal Government.

Axis I gives direct intervention to support and adolescents and their families with ongoing support with the inclusion of a variety of projects.

Axis II is the diffusion of the methodology by outreaching the data and success of the projects and how it can be replicated in different states by promoting the work to social workers, psychologists, educators and members of the judiciary system.

Axis III covers Promotion of Child and Adolescent Rights (Advocacy) on an international level – influencing policies nationally and raising awareness internationally. I later read about the Rio Crianca Network which has been in operation since 2002 which incorporates 15 different organisations in helping children and adolescents living on the streets.

The promotional material is a testament of the amount of families who joined the Rio Crinaca Project and who’s lives it has benefited. It highlights the importance of the family as being a powerful unit in the wider context of the development of its community. The child is therefore not seen on its own but also able to exercise it’s citizenship for the family as a whole and also have space to grow and develop. The brochure is a comprehensive break down of family intervention and case studies of success stories. The project recognises different stages of people’s lives and aims to work on their positives not try and change it, by strengthening bonds at the same time as breaking life on the street.

We venture out onto the streets of Mangueirinha. Luciana sees members of the community that work at the project and is recognised. The feeling of having no police presence is a relief because there doesn’t feel to be any hostility, ie no guns or big squad cars. However, that is replaced with a more volatile feel there are many more eyes upon me and I can’t believe how many young people are about, so much more than the vila I am staying in in Rio. Luciana explains there are reasons for this due to only 3 hours of schooling a day and little job prospects, the prevalence of drug and gang culture is an easier route to take.
I see an image I want to take a picture of; a telegraph pole at the corner of two roads with a hundred different wires coming from it like a spider has knitted a huge black web of clothes against bright blue graffiti. I say i’ve not seen anything like this ever in my time in Brazil but I still can’t take a picture.
We pass one school and I can take a picture.
There is also a hierarchal system in the vila; those families living closer to the shops are more affluent to the families living higher into the hills.

Back at the project they are working with young children working on art activities. There’s a creche called Space of the Imagination. It’s open Tues, Wed, and Thurs open to 12 children. It’s free and it helps children with additional needs and provides time for parents to work or get additional support including parent classes.
Similar to the states they have socialisation groups once a month with their children. They also share expertise in craft classes and sell their work in the community. Examples of which I was allowed to snap.

A group of teenagers enter for workshop and education. I’m told they are on the Passing Casa program. Passing Casa is a 3 month transitional government program that works in partnership with TH to help adolescents move back in with their families or after the 3 months become adopted.

The resources are basic but there’s lots of material and guidance, and workers on hand for support. The workers sit around the table and offer me food. Workers are all from the community and one lady sits with her baby on her knee and practices her English on me in preparation for a exam the next day.

Luciana tells me that the project has been going since 2008 and doesn’t want the government to think that the charity should be doing this permanently. He says that this project is demonstrating complex situations exist and that this is a reality. They want to give the community more autonomy including the new social entrepreneurship program which helps individuals bring income to benefit into the community.

Terra dos Homens is an international organisation and is the only community development project in this area. It is funded mainly by European money but continues to bring this right down to the community and the family is the context of this work.

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Hanging Vines of the Favela

Arriving at night I gaze my head upwards and see the stars and in the morning the sun rises through the slats at the bottom of my bed. I run downstairs hook up to the wifi and book the rest of my stay here.

The terrace shows I am in the middle of the favela. Hearing the sounds I follow my ear and peer down into the alley streets. On one side of my there is a 40ft drop into a courtyard and to the other is a yard a few feet away. Blue water storage buckets share the roof with Satellite dishes.
Laughter of children and parents sat around the plastic table and chairs come out to socialise. Parents and carers carry babies. Skips and tractors rev up the steep hills to continue building work higher up the hill. Kites wave around frantically from different spots, then get caught in the trees rising up to the conservation area at the top. Church bells, loud hailers, children’s samba practice ring. The sun disappears more people come out to recognise the day and the flickers of light from tv screens reflect off the stray cats.

Favelas have become a new angle on my research. I’m due to visit my first NGO who works with families in a favela 14 km North of Rio that. It’s all very interesting the pacification and presence of the police and how that effects a thriving community.

More on this soon.

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Babiloni

Due to writing a lecture, updating the blog, flying back to Rio and intermittent WiFi, my entries are now a week behind.

So I’ll just fill in the middle bit. Before leaving Porte Alegre I had arrange accommodation back in Rio. I was back to the hostels bunking under strangers snoring. I knew from the booking websites there are hostels in Favelas and views overlooking the sea beyond the high-rises and bustle below brings the traveller onto another level of life.

I search the booking sites and choose Chill Hostel inside a Favela called Babiloni in Leme a small area tucked right at the end of the Copacabana beach. The map illustrates an avenue leading off a main road and then goes into a tiny line, a familiar indication that it disappears into a mountain – well the view did look quite high up.

I land at 5pm but by the time I’d waited for the bus and getting stuck in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic, it was dark. The bus driver stopped and shouted for me to get off. So with 23 kg of luggage I navigated my way over the uneven black and white tiles on the pavement. I hadn’t really planned to walk from the bus stop and hoped I could get a taxi up the hill, but when I hail one he says ‘Hey it’s just over there!’ and drives off. This doesn’t help me i’ve still got to climb the steep incline. Sound systems blast out from the beginning of the hill. I spy brightly painted murals electrically standing out in the dark against orange lights of the police squad bulbs.

It seems that there are hundreds of people watching me climb the 300 metre hill with all my belongings clung to me, trying to count the numbers up to 35. Beeston Hill hasn’t got anything on this but my i’m grateful for the experience of those bike climbs.

At 8.30pm I practically fall on top of Arnauld the French hostel worker as he opens the door, greeting me with a grin in bare feet.

Chill Hostel was apparently designed by Oscar Niemeyer in the 70′s for a celebrity friend. It’s a four story winding curving open planned wonderfully tiled and parquet wooden floors, built inside the mountain at an angle has a magic energy.

Anna is sat at reception she is Portuguese and has lived here for over two years. She’s getting ready to go out on another bloco party – the die hard carnival party goers are still going strong. It’s an Egyptian theme so she’s wearing a black bobbed wig. She shows me around the house through the shared kitchen, my dorm and then out onto the terrace and says ‘Welcome to Babiloni’. I’ve made it.

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Leaving Porte Alegre

Here’s some pictures of the fabulous Mercado in the centre of the city. Close to the water and transport links it was once a hub of the city. It still is, providing the source of food and other supplies. Stepping inside and smelling the strangely nice warm air of fish and vegetables was just like Kirkgate. Bye Porte Alegre, thanks for your warm hospitality.
Big thanks for Daisy Carr for stepping up to the translation challenge!

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Carmen Nudelmann and the Semana Do Bebe (Baby Week) Canela

Before I leave the University I have one more appointment with Carmel Nudelmann. Carmen is a paediatrician who represents ULBRA and helps to organise the forthcoming ‘Baby Week’ held in the small tourist town of Canela North of Porte Alegre. The town is famous for its tourism and its chocolate factory (sounds familiar). I researched the Baby Week before travelling to Brazil but Carmen breaks down the epic story of an example of active community participation.

The event takes place every two years and is now celebrating it’s 15th year. Founded by Professor Salvador Antonio Hackman Celia, (deceased), Professor Odon Frederico Cavalcanti Carneiro Monteiro and Pedro Raymundo Dias they initiated the idea of creating one week dedicated to the world of babies in Canela. It has since mobilised the whole town with the main message to promote mental and physical health in the early years of a child’s life.

Baby Week is organised collectively by municipal members of the government, health professionals, businesses, and the University. However, along the way the Canela municipality has given most of the ownership to the community who have made it the success it is today. The planning of the week responds to the needs of the community, with a variety of workshops and seminars towards all aspects of developmental stages of a babies life.

The event always begins on Mothers Day 12th-18th May. Representatives from around the country and international guest speakers attend. Last year the Red Cross president talked about drug addiction. They are also supported by UNICEF http://www.unicef.org/peru/spanish/unicef-promotes-first-indigenous-baby-week-in-brazil.pdf. Preparations for the week are conducted through meetings held every four weeks throughout the year that bring different representatives together that help organise a variety of seminars, conferences and workshops across the town. There are workshops on post- natal depression and support for fathers in recognising the ‘baby blues’, also, domestic violence and impacts this has on the children. As soon as one event finishes they’re planning the next.

Then just to make it more interesting for the first baby to be born in this week made the baby mayor with each baby from the previous year being on the cover of the next preview booklet. Each year there is a theme – ‘Love for Life -What does your baby want?’ Each baby mayor is given a Godfather who will support this family throughout its life.

There are also sex education workshops given to the high school children 14-16 years old. These are facilitated by medical students with the aim if a person closer to the children’s age the more receptive the session will be. The teacher is forbidden to stay. Learning all about having children and the responsibility this entails is promoted through making sure you know how ‘not’ to have babies. The first baby mayor Jean Philipe is 15 now and takes part in these workshops. This has helped reduce teenage pregnancies.

Another proactive and interested member is the MP Cristine Albuquerque has helped recognise the need of more free childcare for families and increasing maternity and paternity leave.

Baby week has become so successful that the model has been adopted in 300 states in Brazil, Portugal and Uruguay. There are plans to make a State Baby Week spearheaded by PIM’s (the program I visited earlier in the week)
At the end of the week everyone goes on the baby walk decorating prams and buggies led by the school band. It’s gets quite emotional.

I then mention I am an Infant Massage Instructor in Leeds and relay the value of the four areas of communication, bonding, muscle growth and calming. The next thing I know I’m being invited back for baby week to do a presentation on my journey helping parents bond with their babies. It looks like I will be experiencing Semana Do Bebe too, and I will be their international guest speaker. Get ready Holbeck you will be participating in international research.

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Outreaching from UK to the USA and BRAZIL – my lecture

Part of my time at the University was to prepare and give a talk on my research experiences so far. Susana had promoted the lecture for 9am on Wednesday 13th March. I had imagined I would be in the same seminar room I had been in the afternoon before for the Domestic Violence meeting. I found out I would be Lecture Theatre 14 talking to 150 students.

These are the points I tried to convey with a translator;

I drew on positive experiences from visits to both US and Brazil. I brought up differences between the three countries.

I have been introduced to some proactive initiatives by the government.

. Providing Health Agents who live in the area and have a good local knowledge
. Working with grass-roots with communities.
. Providing counselling support to visitors, technicians and managers to cover any eventuality.
. Knowledgeable staff in specialised areas and background in family support. On hand.
. Peer support weekly
. Time set aside for planning weekly activities.
. Worker led groups – the visitors controlling the group environment in order to measure the
success.
. Researchers in Universities having a physical presence in the communities.
. The acknowledgement of Mental and Physical Health for both adults and children in providing an
effective framework for family intervention and prevention.
. Benefits to local knowledge and awareness through research.

Highlights from this to return to the UK include;

. Training more parents who live in the community to work within it and help to create job
opportunities
. Make time for more research and reflection each a weekly children centres.
. Create community hubs to involve families from different cultures and backgrounds.
. Each week at these centres provide one free meal
. Involve more charities to make this happen.

One thing I’ve definitely noticed probably more of a cultural difference is the warmth they share. I said we’d never get away with kissing and hugging the children and parents goodbye in the UK. Heck, we’re so wrapped up Health and Safety we fear picking up a child when they’ve fallen never mind hugging! Then one man at the end came up to me hugged me and said – ‘Take this back with you to the UK’

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University uses Law and Psychology to help combat Domestic Violence

My visits here in Porto Alegre were organised for me by my wonderful host Susana Delgado; ULBRA’s Speech and Language Co-ordinator. She has helped me see how proactive the University is in opening up opportunities for students in research and practice and the results these partnerships bring.

After my visits out in the Vila’s, and meeting so many wonderful people, I spent Tuesday inside a seminar room learning more about the University’s innovative approaches this time towards Domestic Violence.

Here, the Law and Psychology departments work together alongside Canoa’s city forum. This is to develop research and actively working with preventative groups which is part of the forum’s Social Services to help break old systems and help pave new routes around tackling Domestic Violence.

NAVIV which has been running since 1997 is a holistic approach which works with domestic violence sufferers and perpetrators. It involves links with the community, local schools, adoption agencies, and family mediation services.

In this time the University has helped solved domestic conflicts without judicial intervention.
. Agility for adoption processes, which is made possible by psychological evaluation.
. Diminished violence rates in the families that received Naviv’s treatment.
(There are no actual statistics of this; it is based solely on the qualitative outcomes and contacts made with several families who were under the Centre´s care.
. Integrated forces of Psychologists and jurists to provide a better treatment for the community.

I discussed the use of our interagency working with MARAC and CAF’s, but as far as i’m aware I don’t think we have any other Educational Institute that does this kind of intervention ground work?

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