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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