Prevent Youth Involvement in Drug Trafficking

 
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Photography Volunteer and Child from Julio Otoni
Photography Volunteer and Child from Julio Otoni

CEMINA has been developing programs that foster the empowerment of underserved communities in Brazil for over 20 years.  I had the great privilege of visiting the Julio Otoni Community Center located in the favela of the same name in Rio de Janeiro (http://juliootoni.wordpress.com/sobre-o-projeito/about/).  

The Center is busy preparing for the launch of a photography exposition this Sunday called "Peeps from Within" designed to give favela children a voice through film and photography. Viewers of the exhibition can gain a glimpse into the childrens' lives through their own eyes.  

CEMINA worked very hard to obtain over 20 cameras from the UK that are now being utilized by the kids to take photos of everyday life in the community.  According to Thais Corral, General Coordinator of the project, the exhibition adheres to the ideals of the center, "to create a home for people."  Through teaching photography, film, dance and music, the Center's volunteers create the conditions for children to express themselves in new and creative ways, and in doing so gain confidence and self-respect.  Many of the volunteers are professional artists in their respective areas.

If you would like to give money to support CEMINA's amazing work in Julio Otoni in providing low-income children with alternative activities out of school hours to prevent their involvement with drugs and gangs, click

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/prevent-youth-from-brazil-gang-involvement-education/

Volunteers and Photographers in Training
Volunteers and Photographers in Training

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Children with their cameras...
Children with their cameras...

Since March, "doing all digital" kicked off at the focus of this semester at Julio Otoni. The focus is on doing activities that can be expressed  Digitally… th anks to some very creative volunteers (Frances and Tamara), the kids have started photography classes, producing their own videos on current and social issues and even writing, producing and acting in their own short “novela” (Brazilian Soap Opera) style videos. As you can imagine, the kids are absolutely LOVING it! There have been some logistical and technical issues to overcome (only having a few working cameras and no working computers being the main ones) but everyone has pulled  together and thanks to some amazing camera donations things are now well underway.

So, aside from being great fun, is there a  reason why workshops like these are important to the kids? Frances Ridley from Banded ( www.bandedarts.co.uk) , one of the volunteers, tell us what Digital Depiction and Peeps from Within is all about and why it’s important…

“‘Digital Depiction’ is a series of workshops that aim to teach children from poor communities in Rio de Janeiro techniques in digital photography, film making and ways in which they can show, through imagery, a true, realistic representation of their community to an outside audience, who often have many negative preconceived ideas. Throughout a twelve week programme the children will be introduced to different techniques essentials in photography and be familiarised to other photographers and artists and well as creative and political thinkers for inspiration. They will be encouraged to use techniques learnt and experiment with their photography to produce interesting, exciting images that capture their lives and communities. Each week will be based on a different photographic technique and will encompass different themes such as environment, women, family etc.

We believe that these set of new activities will prepare children to be much more active in their communities too!!!

We welcome donations to maintain the basic costs of the project.




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Mural Brigada Neotropica at Julio Otoni
Mural Brigada Neotropica at Julio Otoni

January and February is the Summer Season in Brazil.  The 50  children which benefited from the Julio Otoni project are on holidays from school.  For that reason the leading team of the project prepare a great summer camp twice a year when children are on holidays.  This is a very special moment in which we are able to take children on learning journeys for the whole day. 

During this season the activities started on Christmas. We did a great party with  presentations by the children, music,food, gifts and other very joyful activities and started to announce the activities of the Summer Camp 2011.

During January and February the Summer camp took place and children went to the beach and had other special activities such as a great Mural of Street Art the was painted by the Volunteer Chilean Groups known as Brigada negotropica. They painted the wall of the playground where the children play.  The theme of that was painted in the Mural was discussed with the children and they have chosen these animals.

In 2011 the perspective is to maintain the 50 children and to increase the mobilization of supporters especially through the tourists that visit Rio de Janeiro and that now are more likely to come to Favelas due to the great movement of curbing the violence in the favelas through the pacifying police.

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The Community Center Julio Otoni renewed
The Community Center Julio Otoni renewed

End of the year it is time to make a balance.  Ours is positive. Why do we think it was positive?

  •  we have kept 50 children/adolescents in our programs;
  •  the project has engaged the mothers/ women of the community in a income generation project;
  • we have succeeded to keep our partnerships with Jingando, the company that sells shoes all over the world and donates one pound for each per of shoes sold.
  • our project has had visibility in Rio as we offer an alternative to the risk of children engaging in drug traffic.
  • the community of the favela feels very proud and shows ownership towards the project. 
  • we have  volunteers that offer their talents and services to the children.  You will be able to see in this video a music class where the children sing a song that was composed by the group themselves. It is possible to see their joy and engagement.   There are volunteers that do artcrafts, others do theater. In other words the project offers education through recreation which is engaging for children.
  • the great thing also was that in 2010, we could renovate the house that hosts the project.  It was painted, new furniture was acquired. Children painted the walls with drawings, the atmosphere invites to stay there.

The highlight of the year was the income generating project organized by women.  One of our main challenges is always to keep the basic infrastructure that allows us to maintain the house that hosts the project as well as the team of educators and animators that feed the educative process.

Our source of income are individual donations that are not constant therefore not reliable. There are months where it is possible to cover the total amount needed to maintain the 50 children at the center and we have even an excedent. There are months in which the money is not sufficient. In generally we have been able to cover all expenses since our inception in 2006.

This year of 2010, we envisioned new sources of income to sustain the house and the initiative with the children. This was done through supporting a group of women, some of them mothers of the children that are our beneficiaries. The idea was  to create an income generation project based on the confection of articrafts made of recycled material. The project called Mulheres de Santa  lasted the whole year and is occupying part of the house with hand made products and a second hand store where specially people from the community come to buy.  So far this income generating  project was able to provide 10% of the basic expenses of the house, as the women themselves also need to have revenue of their work.  We envision that this can grow in 2011. The goal is to make the activities that support children at the center increasingly sustainable. This may take some years  years, but this was the beginning.

As we are in Brazil it is not easy for us to exactly know what would you be willing to know about our project, so it would be wonderful if you check regularly our blog which is also done in English and let us know what else do you want to know about our project? 

Women doing artcrafts
Women doing artcrafts
Artcrafts products Julio Otoni
Artcrafts products Julio Otoni
Children Playing with Artcrafts
Children Playing with Artcrafts

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Since 2006, a group of NGOs coordinated by CEMINA has been mobilizing resources to provide children (7-12) after school activities preventing them to wonder around and be exposed to the influence of gangs, drugs or other dangerous events that a big violent urban center like Rio de Janeiro offers. The children are gathered in a house named Centro Comunitario Julio Otoni, in two groups, morning and afternoon. They have classes of artcrafts, English, capoeira, informatics and support for school homework. Twice a year they have holliday camp and have activities for 15 days. Four years later the coordinating team has been working on evaluating the impact of the program and also in identifying what is the response that the community is willing to offer in exchange for the service provided. Up to the moment the support to the project has been 100% subsidized by donnations. In March of the current year we have initiated a training process with mothers and women from the community to enable them generating their own income, using the premises of the house, idenfitifying new products for sale and managing this process. We have also organized individual meetings with families to explore with them which kind of contribution they will be able to make. The contribution can be in kind or in cash. Our vision is that by the end of the year, starting 2011, a minimun of the current expenses to maintain the project will be generated by the community. Another level of evaluation is carried directly with the children directly involved in the project. We have been interviewing some of them to register their perception on how the project has impact their lives, especially the ones that are there since 2006, or the ones that started in 2006 and now have left. We want to register: What each of them is currently doing? How the activities and what they have learned at Julio Otoni has impacted the choices they have done? How they feel out of the community? Do they feel marginalized? How confident do they feel? These interviews will be posted at the project's blog soon. Project activities are posted weekly at the project's blog: www.juliootoni.wordpress.com. Today the Julio Otoni project is a reference in Rio de Janeiro. There is a major interest in activities and best practices or labs that have been taking place in the favelas. Curbing urban violence continues to be a major challenge in Rio de Janeiro and every experience that contributes to a solution is reviewed and evaluated very carefully. Certainly Julio Otoni has been one and Global Giving and its donors have been contributing for that.

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Project Leader

Thais Corral

General Coordinator
Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil

Where is this project located?

Map of Prevent Youth Involvement in Drug Trafficking