Aug 29, 2018

Art & Community Mobilization Report: June-Aug 2018

Sandra Carol: smiling and performing!
Sandra Carol: smiling and performing!

Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!

Thanks to your support, our young participants have been very active since the beginning of June, with the continuation of the Theater in Debate and #VivaJuntos projects. At the same time, our team has also been involved in reflections, visits and campaigns.

We’d especially like to note the incredible development of Caroline, or Sandra Carol, a relatively new member of the G2 Theater Group, who has overcome threats, discrimination and family resistance to become one of our shining stars! Here’s is Sandra Carol’s story:

“When I started at the theater group I was a very reserved person, afraid of being who I am, I barely talked, but today I feel free. Everywhere I go I can show who I am and today I have an active voice, I can defend what I think is right and I have my own opinions.”

At Viva a Vida, Caroline is popularly known as Sandra Carol. She has been a member of the V2 Theater Group for one year and today her acting is one of the artistic highlights of the group. Above all she has a surprising life history.

She has lived in the community with her parents for about 4 years. She has four sisters and one brother, all of whom are married. Sandra Carol’s life is similar to some of the other students in the group, in that her family had to move to Vila de Abrantes, because her father was threatened by a brother-in-law, a chemically dependent person, meaning that the family had to leave the area.

Despite these obstacles, Sandra Carol reports that she had a good childhood, but there is one thing that makes her remember this time with sadness:

“My childhood was good, but I had certain problems, because I suffered racism from one of my sisters, which oppressed me as a child.”

Certain memories from this time, such as having her first bicycle, are striking, but what stayed in her mind for a long time was the prejudice she suffered. Sandra Carol says that her sisters’ skin is lighter than hers and they do not share the same father, which she believes may have contributed to the strange looks she always received.

“My four sisters are white, but only one of them said I was a little black girl with coarse hair.”

Although this happened a long time ago, she still feels the difference, “it was as if I didn’t have the same blood running through my veins.”

The transformation from this reality began when “Sandra Carol” sought out an activity that would serve to occupy her mind. Through a colleague, she arrived at the V2 Theater Group.

Sandra Carol’s family is religious and the fact that she is involved in art, interpreting several roles, made her feel uncomfortable at first.

“At the beginning it was very difficult, I felt strange and guilty, as if I was sinning every time I participated in an activity at the NGO.”

Over the year, she has had many conversations with her mother about the importance of theater and the difference that participating in this activity has made for Carol and, above all, that the religious foundations taught by her family will not be abandoned.

We should note that Viva a Vida is not connected to any religious belief, precisely in order to give its beneficiaries the freedom to make their own choices and to profess, or not, their own faith, in any way they wish. This is one of our principles.

In a conversation, Theater Teacher Simone Requião offered Sandra Carol the possibility of exploring other characters, rather than the lesbian character she currently plays, in order for her to feel secure and to avoid possible family conflict.

Returning to her relationship with her mother, Sandra Carol says:

After a number of initiations to watch a performance of In Dependence: “I was surprised that [my mother] came. She was “closed” before the show but at the end of the play she was totally transformed, as soon as we got home she told me that everything she had seen was wonderful. I could see that the religious taboo had been broken, not totally, but I can confirm that my mother had also changed and opened up herself to understanding what theater is and what it can do for people’s lives.”

“Before watching the play, the theater gave nothing to my life, it was something meaningless. After watching it, I loved everything!” says Sandra Carol’s mother.

Sandra Carol notes that her mother did not comment much about her character, because she is a lesbian, although she accepts Sandra Carol’s continued performance in the role.

Congratulations Sandra Carol!


Find out more about what your donations have helped support this semester: 

  • The project Theater in debate: have you thought of that?, encourages young people to reflect on themes relevant to their community by watching the play In Dependence, which is written and performed by the young actors in the group and addresses violence, racism, homophobia and family dysfunction. Since our last report the group has performed in two local schools and three local community organizations, meaning that this year more than 500 community members have watched and debated the play.
  • The second module of the #VivaJuntos Project started at the State College of Vila de Abrantes with Youth Leadership, photography and graffiti workshops, exchange experiences and field visits for 40 adolescents.
  • Team Reflection Day – we finished the first semester with an in-depth reflection and learning session for the team. Many thanks to our volunteer Shelley for the much appreciated massages!
  • Institutional visits:
    • We were delighted to welcome Sandra Lima of Braskem, who visited us to find out more about our work as part of the company’s procedures to approve funding for our projects. We look forward to starting this new partnership!
    • We also received a visit from Marcia Cameria of Detem Quimica to monitor progress of the #VivaJuntos project. Marcia visited the community and was particularly interested in the graffiti the young participants made in homage to Marielle Franco, the Rio de Janeiro city councilor who was executed in March.
  • Public Policy: over this period team members have attended training and supported the approval of local legislation under a new federal law to facilitate civil society operations in Brazil. We look forward to seeing new local partnerships and funding opportunities arising from this legislation!
  • Many thanks to GlobalGiving for their Youth Week initiative, which we participated in at the beginning of August. As a result we raised our profile with donors and potential donors and raised nearly U$ 500.00 for our Microproject, aimed at keeping our community space open until the end of the year. The Microproject has now been retired, but you can read about it here:
Young leaders on our Youth Leadership course
Young leaders on our Youth Leadership course
Jun 1, 2018

Art & Community Mobilization: Report Mar-June 2018

Thiago - poetry, not drugs!
Thiago - poetry, not drugs!

Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!

Thanks to your donations, since the beginning of March, we have launched two projects with our young participants, attended the World Social Forum (held in Salvador), participated in arts events and performed our play (In)Dependencies around the community.

But first let’s hear about Thiago, an impressive 17-year-old no longer involved in hard drugs but instead writing poetry, doing graffiti and performing in public.

Thiago lives with his mother in Vila de Abrantes.  He is from a large family with 6 siblings – 1 boy and 5 girls, but no father: “for me not having a father, that was very shocking.  I didn’t have that man to talk to, to ask about my day at school, I missed having a father.”

Despite this, Thiago’s childhood was, as he says, “normal”, since the presence of his mother made up for a lot of absences, both emotional and financial... “my childhood was normal, for a child without a father, there was only my mother to help at home.  Thank God, I was never hungry. My mother and I have always been close”.

There is only one episode that had a real impact and changed the course of Thiago’s life and that of his mother and siblings.

During his adolescence he had to deal with violence very close to him.  One of his siblings became involved in criminal behvaiour, which was the reason for his mother leaving the neighborhood they lived in and moving to Vila de Abrantes.

The worst moment in my life was when my brother became involved in serious life crimes, which was what he wanted, he chose.  Today I have taken a step back from my brother, but I think he’s well.  He is a very complicated, proud person and always wants to be better than other people.”

I came to live in Abrantes because of my mother’s decision, she came here precisely because of the things that my brother was doing, doing a lot of stupid things where he lives and she was afraid to stay there”.

This change also protected Thiago from continuing to be involved in drug dealing, something he doesn’t like to talk about much.  Despite recognizing that the change was very important for his life, he sees that the neighborhood provides few opportunities for young people and is very unsafe.

I don’t feel totally comfortable in Vila de Abrantes, due to the simple fact that I don’t have many opportunities”.

At this stage of adolescence the ideal is to be surrounded by protective factors such as good education, leisure and income generation opportunities, but this is not the reality for Thiago, or other adolescents and young people in Vila de Abrantes.

My adolescence is complicated by bad things – bad opportunities, I’m talking about hard drugs, opportunities to do wrong – and some opportunities for good... good opportunities are always welcome.  I think there is a lack of work opportunities, people need to have leisure, for the community to unite, not everyone is united, most people from here... it is very complicated!”

Here, in this conversation, Thiago is able to see that some good opportunities have emerged in his life and he considers Viva a Vida to be one of these.  Finding out about the Vila Jovem project through the art and drawing course and the Human Rights and Youth workshops, which focus on racism and violence, provided this young man with the opportunity to gain new life prospects.

I found out about the Viva a Vida project from Youth Worker Marcos Paulo, he presented the project at school and I wanted to participate because I thought his proposals were really interesting and I also thought that we have to concern ourselves with the ideas he discusses.  He was talking about black people.  And I am black, I have to know the truth, my people are hungry, they are not considered by society, among other things.  And this made me rethink my life and what I really want”.

Once he started participating in Viva a Vida’s activities, Thiago began to rethink his attitudes and to understand that through art, in his specific case through poetry, there are new pathways.

“Poetry helped me to express and show my feelings that are hidden within standard society”.

Getting to know Viva a Vida changed my way of being, of seeing life.  Viva a Vida has benefited me through education, has helped me to understand that one day I can be more than I thought...”

This young man surprises us with every step he takes.  He participated in the World Social Forum at the round table in which our Youth Worker Marcos Paulo spoke about marginal arts.  Thiago was brave enough to recite his own poetry about black youth, which made a great impression on the audience. As a result of this activity, he became so motivated that he ran his own arts event in a really spontaneous and authentic way, at the school where he studies.  Following on from this, we were invited to participate in an arts event run by CESE (an ecumenical Human Rights organization), where Thiago once again recited his own poetry.  At the launch of the two projects Theatre in Debate – have you thought of that? and #VivaJuntos, there was Thiago, once again impressing the audience with his poetry and particularly with a poem that brought tears to the eyes of some audience members talking about his love for his mother.

To finish up, let’s hear what Youth Worker Marcos Paulo, who has followed all Thiago’s progress close up, has to say:

Dreams are a kind of magic that every man recognizes.  During a workshop about creating Life Plans, while we were reflecting on how to realize our own dreams, I was questioned by Thiago, who at that time was very doubtful about himself and the chance of realizing his dreams.  An emotional encounter developed in which two dreamers decided to plant the seeds of poetry and now his dream has become poetry”.

To finish, find out more about what your donations have helped support this semester:

  • Launch of the two projects Theatre in Debate – have you thought of that? (funded by Criança Esperança) and #VivaJuntos (funded by Fundacion CEPSA, Social Value Award).  Approximately 40 young people and community members attended the garden launch of these two projects with poetry performances, a graffiti exhibition and a performance of the play (In)Dependencies, written by the 20 young actors in the group, which addresses violence, racism, homophobia and family dysfunction.  A very lively debate followed the performance reflecting on the issues brought up in the play.  One of the mothers discussed what most caught her attention: “The bit about love in the perfect family, where they hide everything [the parents don’t recognize that their daughter is a bully and a racist] and they think they are the perfect family, but in fact there is no love between them, because if there was love it wouldn’t be like this.
  • #VivaJuntos: training youth leaders.  This project includes a series of workshops held at the State college of Vila de Abrantes.  Youth Worker Marcos Paulo is helping more than 200 students in the first year of high school understand Human Rights and what this means for their lives. The students have written some great poetry about their experiences.  In the second semester, the project will focus on graffiti and photography workshops, and our young leaders’ work will then be exhibited in the community and across the municipality.
  • Theatre in Debate – have you thought of that?  The V2 Theater Group is taking their play around the community.  Since the beginning of April, they have performed at our center, two municipal schools and a local NGO.  More than 100 young people and community members have participated in debates reflecting on these vital themes.  Twelve more performances are planned for the rest of the year, reaching more than 700 people.
  • World Social Forum.  Marcos Paulo participated in the round table about Marginal Arts and young members of the Vila Jovem Youth Group participated in the debate and recited some of their own poetry in front of the audience, this was really moving!
  • Arts Event, CESE – once again our budding poets recited their poetry as this important event attended by poets and activists from the city of Salvador.

We have launched a GlobalGiving microproject to help us keep our Community Center open for the rest of the year, allowing more young people to rediscover the joy of adolescence.  Find out more at:

Jumping for joy at the launch of our new projects!
Jumping for joy at the launch of our new projects!
Mar 6, 2018

Art and Mobilization Report Dec 2017 - March 2018

Young artist Jesse
Young artist Jesse

Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!

“When someone puts a battery in you, to give you the energy to do something .. the project was like that for me”

Since we last sent you a report, we have been doing a lot of evaluations and preparations work behind the scenes.  In December, we looked back over the year, listening to the voices of our young participants in project focus groups and written evaluations, running a team reflection session and outlining our 2017 Annual Report.  Then in January we began our preparations for 2018, with project planning and team meetings to set targets for the new year and finalize our 2018Operational Plan.  In February, we once again participated in the Educational Planning Week at the local High School, listening to teacher feedback and outlining our plans for 2018.

In December, we were invited to the CEPSA Foundation to collect their 2018 Social Award, won by our project Vila Jovem Grafitta – street art for social mobilization.  This will enable us to run another edition of the project, called #Viva Juntos, which will benefit up to 1,800 young people through Youth Empowerment, Photography and Graffiti workshops and exhibitions.

To celebrate the Vila Jovem Grafitta achievements, we’d like to tell you a little bit about Jessé, a young man who was fed up with school, ready to leave and start working and involved in unsafe behavior.  Thanks to our Human Rights & Youth Workshops and theVila Jovem Grafitta group, Jessé has changed his course and is flourishing as a young artist, keen to give back to his community.

“I learnt a lot about black identity, I really think about it differently today, and that is how I was able to truly become aware of what I should do with my life, because I was following a totally different way of behavior to what I am today... I was making a lot of mistakes, it wasn’t right... but then I managed to develop through this project, I was able to change how I think, I learnt new things, it was really good”.

Hear what Jessé has to say about his neighborhood and the effect of Viva a Vida’s projects on his life.

My neighborhood, in terms of hospitality and studies, is abandoned, the politicians don’t go there... [Some neighborhoods]don’t have high schools, it’s really shunned, the politicians don’t pay direct attention to my neighborhood.  It could be better in so many ways, the sports pitches are totally destroyed, the maintenance of the squares, nothing is 100%”

As a result of the workshops, Jessé, who had been thinking of leaving school, has changed his course, his thinking and attitudes.

 “I was even thinking of leaving school... to work, but I gave that up, I changed my mind, the project helped me to understand that above all my studies should be on the agenda… and I believe that this, I repeat this again and again, has helped the community to expand from the point of view of adolescents”.

Brave enough to admit that he used to be “a bit” racist and homophobic, after entering the project, Jessé managed to overcome these barriers:

I didn’t have the courage to admit my own identity... I was a bit racist too, prejudiced and then this changed, all this changed when I began to understand that my identity needed cultivating, and thus the prejudice, I was very prejudiced… my mind totally changed, because I was prejudiced about everything, in some ways I was a bit homophobic, I learnt to respect everyone, in the way that I want to be respected and that’s how it went.  So I was able to evolve, my mind changed, I learnt to understand things, my interpretation changed a lot, all of this was thanks to the project.”

Changes in Jessé’s life didn’t stop there, if before he wasn’t excited about his own compositions, today, he only thinks about art... “I always liked [art] a lot, but I didn’t practice it in my life, I didn’t know how to practice it, but today all the walls in my bedroom are painted, today I dance, I have performed in the school, I have held a dance presentation, I sing rap, all of this was inspired by the project, you know when someone puts a battery in you, to give you the energy to do something, the project was like that for me”.

The Vila Jovem Grafitta project holds community exhibitions of the young people’s work in order to pass on their youth empowerment messages and to show the young people how valuable their work is for others.  Jessé is understandably proud of the possibility of seeing his own work exhibited:

I learnt drawing techniques, I managed to develop all of them, because the teacher makes such an effort, he gives so much of himself for the performance of his students, and so I was able to develop.  Before I couldn’t draw anything but by the end of the course I was able to draw a picture which will go into the exhibition”.

Congratulations Jessé!  We look forward to telling your more about the exhibitions in our next report.

In February, we relaunched our Open Agenda meetings with a fantastic debate about Gender and LGBT Rights facilitated by Vilma Bahia from the Collective of Diversity and Citizenship in Lauro de Freitas and Thiffany Odara, a trans feminist, educator and social activist.   Twenty young people and adults participated in the debate, which generated a number of questions, addressed with humor and grace by these two impressive activists, who have both offered to work with Viva a Vida in the future.

After the debate, Lucas, a member of the V2 Theater Group, said this:

“I felt really fulfilled after the discussion, I didn’t want it to end.  The women added so much to my life and I wanted more.  Vilma has had amazing life experiences and has incredible ideas that made us think harder about issues of prejudice and about accepting ourselves.  Thiffany was incredible with her dynamic and funny dialogue, she passed on her knowledge about the issue of gender brilliantly and won me over with her way of expressing herself and how she dedicated herself to helping us and answering our questions so that everything was clear... I would really like more meetings with them and to be able to work with them on a project at the NGO!

Huge thanks to Vilma and Thiffany, here’s hoping we can continue this amazing partnership!

After the Gender and LGBT Rights debate!
After the Gender and LGBT Rights debate!
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