Marcia & Thiago - mother and son!
Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!
We have been happily busy over this last period, with our Big Get Together; photography and graffiti courses culminating in an exhibition at one of the biggest shopping malls in the region; more theater performances in both community spaces and professional theaters; a project visit in Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, at which Viva a Vida was represented by Lucas, one of our young theater stars; and the launch of our video – We Won’t Let Go of Anybody’s Hand – A Story of Resistance, describing Thiago’s journey from violence and danger to poetry and art.
While working with Thiago, we were delighted to discover that we already knew his mother, Marcia, through Viva a Vida’s Drug Treatment Center, which was attended by her oldest son. Today, we would like to let Marcia tell you a little bit about her experiences of Viva a Vida and how her life with Thiago has changed.
“Thiago … has grown so much recently, he’s great… he’s going to study at university, he writes beautiful poetry, he writes music, lots of songs, he’s another person, he’s totally changed his way of seeing, of talking, he’s changed how he expresses himself.”
Marcia is 43 years old and has three children, the oldest J is 27, Thiago is 17 and she has a little girl, Ester, who is 4. Two of her children have participated in Viva a Vida projects. Marcia lives with her husband and her two youngest children in Vila de Abrantes. She does a lot of sales work in order to contribute to the family income. She is a strong woman, a warrior and a fighter! She was hugely surprised to rediscover Viva a Vida.
But, we should explain: When her oldest child was 14 years old, he began using drugs. This was when she got to know Viva a Vida for the first time.
“I didn’t know what to do, I asked a client for help and she put me in touch with Viva a Vida, where I was very well looked after.”
At the time, Viva a Vida ran a drug treatment center and J eventually graduated from his chemical dependency treatment. However, at Viva a Vida, we know only too well how hard it is to break away from the ties of gang culture, and, although he gave up drugs, J has so far not been able to rehabilitate into society.
When her oldest son left Viva a Vida, the family decided to rebuild their life by moving to the Vila de Abrantes neighborhood. Sadly, this wasn’t the solution for J, who has twice been imprisoned for drug dealing. During his first detention, Marcia visited him weekly, helping with his ‘expenses’ and supporting her son:
“It was very humiliating and I said there wouldn’t be a second time”
The problems continued, but Marcia was always at her children’s side… she started having problems with Thiago, her middle child, but persisted, trying to help him overcome these. There was something very important she had learned from Viva a Vida:
“It’s not my fault… I’m so tired! But there’s something that the psychologist at Viva a Vida taught me… that it’s not my fault, because life is made up of choices.”
But she recognizes that many great changes occurred in her son’s life. As we have seen, after J left Viva a Vida, he stopped using drugs, but remained involved in crime. Today J is living in an inland region and is still involved in drug dealing.
“He has changed a lot… and he hasn’t got better because he chose, once again, to take the wrong path”.
All this time, Thiago was living in the same house and tragically he also became involved in extremely risky gang-related behavior, which culminated in a violent attack that left him hospitalized:
“People don’t know what we go through when are children are like this”.
Marcia was really afraid of seeing Thiago going down the same path as his brother J. She was always present in her children’s lives, but this time she tried doing things differently. Giving Thiago less “privileges”, putting him to work… although her concerns persisted!
One day this year, Marcia accompanied Thiago to our center to borrow some equipment. Thiago participates in the #VivaJuntos group and has been working with Youth Worker Marcos Paulo since last year, but he didn’t mention Viva a Vida by name, only referring to it as ‘the project’. Marcia was amazed when she recognized Viva a Vida’s logo and realized that this project in Abrantes is the same Viva a Vida she knew ten years ago. Evelin Salles, Projects Coordinator, was overwhelmed with emotion when she saw the effect of our work expressed in Marcia’s smiles.
It was then that the two of them came together to reflect on this new encounter.
Changes - During their conversation, Marcia said countless times… “I tell Thiago to walk with the nerds, because they take the pathway of books”. And so he has! Thiago has already told his story through Viva a Vida’s social networks and in an interview similar to this one. He has also been the star of a video called “We won’t let go of anybody’s hand - a story of resistance” (soon to be published with English subtitles on Viva a Vida’s social networks), which talks about how he has progressed and transformed his life through poetry.
Through the support invested by both his mother and by Viva a Vida, Thiago’s life has really turned around. He used to be seen by his mother as a potential “problem”, but today she has a different view:
“Thiago is a good boy, he’s grown so much recently, he’s great, he says he’s going to study at university, he writes beautiful poetry, he writes music, lots of songs, he’s another person, he has totally changed his way of seeing, of talking, he’s changed how he expresses himself, even how he looks.”
“This work is fantastic and it makes a difference and God brought Viva a Vida into my life for a second time, by chance, right! It’s perfect”.
Congratulations to Thiago and his mother for their amazing story of resistance! And now for a bit more news about some of the activities you have helped fund over this period:
• BIG GET TOGETHER - the first of September was a chance to bring all our young participants, staff and Board members together in a Big Get Together held in our community space, which YOU have helped to keep open! This was a chance to find out a bit more about how the organization is run, make sure everyone has a voice and share all our learning and experiences. Our young photographers used this opportunity to take some dynamic photos, while the young poets recited their poetry and our young actors enacted scenes from their play;
• Photography Field Visit – students on the #VivaJuntos photography course had a day out at Salvador’s Pituaçu Park to put into practice some of the theory they had learnt;
• The V2 Theater Group performed their play in two schools (one public and one private) in Vila de Abrantes and in the Alberto Martins and Eliete Teles professional theaters;
• Open Agenda: In partnership with Plan International we held an Open Agenda meeting to discuss Sexual Violence with students at the local State College;
• #VivaJuntos Exchange – students from our photography and graffiti courses participated in the JACA poetry slam event in Cajazeiras, Salvador, exchanging experiences with other young people and discussing social activism and youth empowerment;
• #VivaJuntos Photography and Graffiti Exhibition – we are hugely proud of our young artists, who are exhibiting their work from 15 to 30 November at Boulevard Shopping Camacari. This is the culmination of their studies and debates about Youth Empowerment and Art;
• Black Consciousness Day: Viva a Vida launched the video “We won’t let go of anybody’s hand - a story of resistance” at the local state college in Vila de Abrantes on 20 November to celebrate Black Consciousness Day;
• Viva a Vida & Onda Solidária Project Exchange: a magical and historical moment in which youth leaders from a range of social projects visited the Vila dos Sonhos (Village of Dreams) Project to present their projects and promote exchanges, debates and activities with the theme Together/United We Reflect and Create Solutions to confront the day to day challenges facing Children and Young People in Brazil. Lucas, a dynamic member of the V2 Theater Group, travelled to the south of Brazil and represented Viva a Vida – Congratulations Lucas!
• International Human Rights Congress: two of our staff members participated in this congress in Maceió to share ideas and learning related to innovation and social technologies for Human Rights. With thanks to the Global Fund for Children for financial support.
Graffiti artists at their exhibition
Young artists exhibit their work