Happy 2015! We wish you and your family all the happiness and prosperity to come in this New Year.
At our school, The Educandário Creche Comunitária Sonho da Vovó Clara (ECCSVC) or Grandmother Clara’s Dream Educational Community Creche in Mata Escura, Brasil, students have just returned to classes following a break over the festive season. Christmas was particularly happy this year as we were able to throw a small party for the children and celebrate the return of our fantastic teacher Andrea!
Our older ‘Banca’ students – who attend the school for extra tuition and help with homework when the local secondary college is closed (which happens all too often) – did a fantastic job of decorating the school for the party. Guided by Andrea they created a beautiful party table for serving the local foods enjoyed during the festive season. When you witness how much care is shown in presenting the food you understand how special these treats are for the kids – every last morsel of food is enjoyed and appreciated and it is lovely to be able to give our students a little bit of festive magic.
The party was a great success, with lots of dancing and games. There was also a small gift from Santa Claus for each child – only possible thanks to the kind donations we have received. Most of our students won’t receive gifts at home – in many cases their parents simply do not have the funds for this. They were ecstatic with the gifts they received at the party, although a little suspicious that Santa Claus might in fact have been Sr. Eraldo, our school administrator.
Returning to normal school activities – following the Christmas party the school term concluded for the summer break. All of our students received a food package to take home to help ensure that they and their families eat well whilst school is not in session. Malnutrition is a constant problem for our students and we witness the effects this has on their health, concentration and growth. Parents cannot afford a good diet for their children and in many cases simply cannot be around during the daytime to monitor what they are eating. We know of students who are given a packet of biscuits (cookies) between 2 or 3 siblings to last a weekend – it is of vital importance that we continue to provide good balanced meals in the school and food packages for weekends and holidays.
For the past week Andrea has been working hard to prepare the school for the new term and she has also been receiving visits from new students and their parents wishing to enrol. It’s great that we will have lots of new faces for 2015 and we are really hoping that all our regulars return – we know that many have travelled to the interior of the state to visit family. It is normal for some families decide to remain in the countryside after the festive period and, alongside the new faces we welcome, we are always prepared for some students to disappear. This is a pattern we witness every year; most of our families have migrated to Salvador from the very poor and barren interior of the state looking for employment. Unfortunately the promise of regular work in the city does not become a reality for most.
Andrea has worked hard to clean and decorate the school ready for the new term – it is looking fantastic with the students work displayed proudly on the walls. We are currently discussing an improvement project, hopefully to begin next month, to give the classrooms a fresh coat of paint and improve some of the facilities before the rainy season begins.
Thank you for continuing to support this project.
All the best
We thought we’d start this report by sharing some of the school’s history and the story of how it came to be established in Mata Escura. The Educandário Creche Comunitária Sonho da Vovó Clara (ECCSVC) or Grandmother Clara’s Dream Educational Community Creche was named in honour of local woman Maria Clara Barbosa. Maria Clara was born on 12th August 1912 to a very poor family. She married young, had 6 children and raised a further 5 grandchildren. Although she was illiterate, she always instilled in her children the importance of education and despite great financial and social constraints 2 of her children went on to graduate as teachers - an incredible achievement for a family facing such difficulties.
This achievement brought Maria Clara particular pride as teaching had always been the profession she had most admired and wished she had been able to pursue. Since an early age she had harboured a dream to open a creche and community centre to help the needy in her local community. As she entered old age she increasingly began to offer shelter and food to abandoned and needy children and vulnerable elderly people in the favela. She became well known locally by the nickname ´Vovó Clara´ or ´Granny Clara´ and worked tirelessly to help those in need - opening her humble residence to all those who needed her help and treating them as if they were her own children.
Maria Clara tirelessly continued this benevolent work for many years and was a much loved figure in the local community. Unfortunately she eventually became frail and on the 26th January 1993 she passed away, aged 81, not before she had returned to school and learnt how to read and write - her belief in the importance of education never waned.
For 10 years after her death, her son Eraldo Barbosa did not stop pursuing the dream of finally opening Maria Clara´s creche. In 2000 he achieved his aim and the Educandário Creche Comunitária Sonho Vovó Clara opened it´s doors, offering free education, childcare and food to Mata Escura´s neediest children. His home was converted into classrooms and he funded the work with his own modest administrator´s pension. Since then the creche has relied on volunteers and the erratic donations of food and materials that Eraldo has managed to obtained through his campaigning to local businesses. It has been a constant battle to keep the school alive and continue offering a safe haven for the children of this troubled region, however Eraldo´s persistence is tireless. In his own words - ´the battle is a big one, but I am not going to give up the fight for these children, who are our future, every one of their hugs, kisses and smiles gives me renewed determination not to stop battling for them.´
Back in the present day, 2014 has been a big year for the school. As a result of Salvador’s status as a football World Cup host city the area witnessed a large amount of migration. Lots of new little faces have arrived at the school and there are more names on the waiting list for a place in 2015 than ever before. With the donations we have been so fortunate to attract recently we are now considering a renovation project – this will involve repairing the roof and windows of an already existing annex building to create a new classroom. This will enable us to open our doors to more children and ensure that students are effectively split into age groups for better learning. The best opportunity for the renovation work will be during the Christmas/New Year holiday so hopefully we will be seeing some great changes very soon.
Of course a new classroom will mean that we require more teaching staff and we will also shortly begin discussing this with the local school team. We are excited at the prospect of being able to expand and offer employment to another local teacher.
In our last report we mentioned that our fantastic teacher Andrea was unwell and was recuperating after surgery. The great news is that Andrea has made a full recovery and is now back at work. The kids missed her so much and we are all so relieved that she is back at the helm in the school.
Whilst Andrea has been recovering we have to give a special mention to our older students, Geisa and Francielle, who have been an invaluable help to our school staff looking after the youngest children. Geisa and Francielle have shown incredible kindness towards the little ones, helping them to eat their food and soothing them to sleep at nap time.
One of the first things that Andrea has worked on with the children since returning to work is a Weather and Seasons project. In the attached pictures you will see some of the work the children have produced. This has been a great project for the kids to understand the changing of the seasons as Brazil moves from the rainy season into the summer.
In mid-November Brazil will celebrate Children’s Day and our students are invited to a city-wide picnic in the park, organised by the local education department. The government offer very little support for education and childcare in the favelas, so whilst it may only be a gesture, it is a great opportunity for our students to enjoy a day out and is always a cause of huge excitement.
The World Cup has understandably caused a great deal of excitement in the school and teacher Andrea has been working football themed exercises into her maths lessons as well as talking to the students about the different countries and their supporters that have been visiting Salvador over the last month. Andrea is also planning a fun football tournament in the school to mark the event and hoping to talk some of the parents into getting involved.
Since the school’s inception we have always been working hard to try and encourage parental involvement – support at home is so vital for our children’s educational success. The school is very fortunate to benefit from a small football pitch, which was created by clearing a section of jungle to the rear of the classroom buildings. This was only possible thanks to charitable donations and provides and invaluable safe place for the children to play. But of course the success of our fun tournament will also depend on the weather – June/July is the middle of the rainy season in Bahia and the tropical downpours can be absolutely torrential!
Despite all the festivities there are some very serious consequences of the World Cup coming to Brasil. Leaving aside arguments about the questionable nature of investments in stadia at a time when Brazil’s education, transportation and public health systems are in such dire need of funding, the arrival of the ‘Copa do Mundo’ has had immediate local effects in Salvador. With Rio de Janeiro as the flagship host city and also currently preparing for the Olympics in 2016, huge efforts have been made to reduce the threat of crime for visitors to the city. This has been achieved with police raids of the most notorious favelas in Rio, with police moving in and taking semi-permanent control of some areas of the city. This hasn’t forced the criminal gangs to change their ways however, in reality most have just moved to new areas and to other cities. Salvador, with it’s similar climate, coastal location, tourist money and already booming criminal underworld has proved an attractive relocation option. This phenomena is so new that we do not have any statistics as yet, but speaking to the locals many report crimes committed by new arrivals to the city and gang violence is visibly increasing as the new migrant criminals jostle for position with the established drug traffickers. It is a worrying situation and we will have to watch how it develops over the next few years.
Much like during the annual Carnaval celebrations, the World Cup is going to create another unavoidable distraction from education for our students. It’s a difficult reality, but the event provides local families with a much needed opportunity to earn some money. Small family enterprises will spring up all round the stadium and hotel district during this period, and although the government have tried to restrict the number of unauthorised street vendors working during the Cup, a very large number of the city’s children will still earn money next month selling drinks, snacks and souvenirs and finding parking spaces for drivers.
Everyone at Educandário Creche Comunitária Sonho da Vovó Clara
Crime is at endemic levels throughout the city of Salvador, which is the capital of Bahia´s marijuana and cocaine trafficking industry. Gang violence in the favelas is also on the increase. Despite widespread publicity of these critical levels of violence, crime still attracts many adolescents who are drawn by the notion of an easy route to improving their financial status and feel there are few other options open to them.
To provide an anecdotal example of the lure of crime and gang culture for the city´s youth, in a discussion at our school about what the children wanted to do when they grew up, one 5 year old student told us that he wanted to be a thief, his justification being that ´a thief gets everything he wants and doesn’t have to work for it’. This same child had witnessed his own father, who was involved in the local drug trade, shot dead in front of him by the police just a month earlier.
We have had some great successes on this project but we rely entirely on your donations to continue our work. Here at Grandmother Clara´s Dream we firmly believe in education as a basic human right and the best route to offering the children of this troubled community the opportunity of a brighter future.
GVI Charitable Trust
At the school in Mata Escura, on the outskirts of the city of Salvador, students are preparing for Carnaval 2014, which begins on 27th February. The Carnaval celebrations in Salvador are the largest in Brasil – last year 527,000 tourists flocked to the City for the week-long festival of music and excess. The Carnaval week is traditionally a public holiday for locals and the school will be closed, however not all our students will be joining the party.
For many impoverished families in Salvador, Carnaval offers a much needed opportunity to earn some money. Small family enterprises spring up all over the beachfront district during this period, and although the local authorities have been tightening the restrictions on unauthorised street vendors, a very large number of the city’s children still earn money that week selling drinks, snacks and souvenirs and finding parking spaces for drivers. We have witnessed children as young as 4 years old selling canned drinks along the Carnaval route. The situation for these kids is far from ideal, but it would be idealistic to try and prevent families from taking advantage of this opportunity.
Unfortunately there is a darker side to Carnaval – crime rates (already amongst the highest in Brasil) take a dramatic rise during this week. Pickpocketing and drug dealing reach endemic levels and children, owing to their size and protection from prosecution are sadly often involved. It is the continued work of our school to try and protect our students from becoming involved in Salvador’s criminal world.
Back to the school – our students returned from the Christmas break in the second week of January. A new intake for 2014 saw a lot of new faces – lots of new younger students are in the process of adjusting to crèche. It is great to see that our school continues to grow in reputation and popularity in the favela and there was a queue of new enrolees on opening day.
A number of our oldest students were enrolled in the local state school at the end of December. We encourage parents to register their children for state education as soon as they are old enough - in Bahia the enrolment age is 7 years old. The public education system has many problems, class sizes are very large, lessons are regularly cancelled due to a lack of teaching staff and facilities are poor – but attending the state school is the only way that children can obtain the formal qualifications that they will require later in life. As children only attend the public school for half days, we offer ‘Banca’ = reinforcement classes for these students for the remainder of the day. During ‘Banca’ children can get help with their homework, extra tuition, lunch or breakfast and a safe place to stay for the remainder of the day whilst their parents are at work.
Our ‘Banca’ students are also providing invaluable assistance to teacher Andrea in helping the younger students adjust to life at the creche, assisting in the classroom during her lessons and at lunchtime. In a perfect world this would not be necessary and we would be able to offer extra tuition to these older students 100% of the time, unfortunately however our teaching resources are limited and their help is greatly appreciated. Whilst schoolwork will always come first, we also believe that there is an intrinsic value in the teaching and nurturing skills that the older students are developing and we have been very impressed in the transformation of some students who had behavioural problems in the past but, have flourished when caring for their younger colleagues.
Thank you for continuing to support this project and we look forward to being in touch again soon!
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