Mar 4, 2019

Art & Community Mobilization Report: Nov - Mar 19

Miqueias, from low self-esteem to graffit artist!
Miqueias, from low self-esteem to graffit artist!

Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!

Now is the time to reflect on the end of 2018 and the start of 2019, a period full of endings, reports and celebrations followed by beginnings, planning and looking forward! We closed 2018 by inviting all the participants of the Theater in Debate and #Viva Juntos projects to a moonlight beach party to celebrate their amazing achievements over the year! Then we started 2019 with presentations at the State College of Vila de Abrantes’ Teacher Planning Day, and exhibiting our graffiti and photography exhibition in the college lobby. The new Vice-Principle of the College was really moved by all our presentations, saying: I really wanted to give you all a hug yesterday, I loved what you said, it will stay with me for a long time. Here’s to many more years supporting young people at risk and working in partnership with their schools for a better future!

Talking of young people at risk, check out our latest story, that of Miqueias, who has grown from an insecure student, with such low self-esteem that he felt he didn’t know how to write, to a graffiti star, exhibiting his art in the community:

I have dreams again

I used to fight at school, after Viva a Vida, I began to think before reacting

I’d stopped writing completely, Marcos began giving me tips… I went back to writing

This story is about how the power of motivation can change a person’s life. And how important it is to have someone take your hand and say: let’s go on, you can do it!

“Miqueiasdidn’t believe in himself, one day he told me that he had some school work to do, but he didn’t know how to write. I said: don’t let them tell you that!” Youth Worker Marcos Paulo.

Miqueias is 16 years old and has lived in Vila de Abrantes, with his four siblings, parents and a cousin, for four years. His parents are currently going through a very difficult period of separation and Miqueias finds himself in a tricky position: his father thinks he is taking his mother’s side and this has complicated their relationship and really upset him.

His childhood was peaceful, he grew up in Valença (a small coastal town) but his father needed to come and live in Camaçari to work as a builder and Miqueias, his mother and siblings came with him.

Financial difficulties have always been a part of family life, currently they live in a house provided by his father’s boss, while they all try to construct another house in the same neighborhood. With his parent’s separation, the family is not yet sure what will happen with their housing situation.

Miqueias works with a traditional local food stall, when they call on him, and with the money from this job he contributes to household expenses and pays for his own things.

His mother works in a pharmacy and, through great effort, has managed to train as a nursing technician, which makes Miqueias very proud.

“I always had a very open mind at home, I always thought that she wanted to, and would, grow. Even when we were small, she always looked after us and studied too.”

The current family context has left Miqueias feeling very insecure, he began feeling even more demotivated at school and gave up on his writing skills and his desires, because his self-esteem was so low.

It was then, through an activity with the Vila Jovem Youth Group, that Miqueias met Youth Worker Marcos Paulo. Since when he began participating in Human Rights, Photography and Graffiti Workshops.

Miqueias gained strength through these activities … “in the first Human Rights workshop, Marcos asked us to write a poem… I already [wrote poetry], but I’d never told anyone about it. That was the beginning.”

This was the first poem Miqueias wrote in the classroom:

"We have to fight for our equality

The right to our liberty

Just because I am black

Please more respect

We are all equal

But we have to proclaim peace

We have to have the courage to fight for our equality

And thus unite society

We all have to have humility to therefore gain our liberty

Unity, compassion and perseverance

To join forces and fight for our rights

And those of the children”

After this, Miqueias reports that he began dreaming about his talents again: “I used to make everything very difficult - drawing, writing, I didn’t believe in myself anymore, but now I draw and draw, and my design comes out”.

His behavior at school changed: “I began to think more, I stopped fighting about just anything. Before fighting I stop and think,” “I used to fight at school, after Viva a Vida, I began to think more before reacting.”

Now he has more dreams: “I had stopped writing completely, Marcos began giving me tips, some help, I went back to writing, I returned to drawing”. “I have dreams again, I want to go to medical school, to have my own house.”

His relationships have changed: “I was always very closed, but talking to Marcos I let myself go. I didn’t talk much, I suffered in silence, when asked I said nothing was wrong…. not anymore!

To conclude, we return to Youth Worker, Marcos’, first statement, where he refers to the difficulties he encountered when he first met Miqueias. He didn’t have any self-esteem, he didn’t feel capable of expressing himself. Through the empowerment of the workshops and the techniques he learnt in the graffiti and photography classes, he has begun to see that new pathways do exist.

The #VivaJuntos Project does not teach art alone, it also teaches us that any young person can begin to dream again and that we, as adults in projects, as teachers at school, must lead them along the pathway to strengthen their self-esteem and light up new pathways.

This is what happened with Miqueias, a shy young man with low self-esteem has become an artist. His graffiti panel, as shown in the above photograph, was one of the most acclaimed in the project exhibition!

Congratulations Miqueias and Marcos Paulo for his inspiriting work!

Here are a few of the other inspiring things you have helped fund over this period: 

  • #VivaJuntos Exhibition - the State College of Vila de Abrantes began their academic year with an exhibition of the graffiti and photography from the #VivaJuntos Project, including 36 photos and 12 graffiti panels with messages about combatting racism and other rights violations, seen by more than 1000 students, teachers and school employees. The exhibition was accompanied by a poetry performance by Jesse (one of the artists from the project) as well as the video “We won’t let go of anybody’s hand” -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I29qilrAxxs which tells the story of young participant Thiago.
  • Teacher Planning Day - our Coordinator Evelin Salles, Youth Worker Marcos Paulo and young participant Jesse from the Vila Jovem Youth Group attended Teacher Planning at the State College of Vila de Abrantes and presented the results of Viva a Vida’s work in 2018, including a video of a performance of (In)dependence and the video “We won’t let go of anybody’s hand”. It was a really special moment, attended by 70 teachers in total, which the teachers found very moving, and at which they recognized and praised Viva a Vida’s work in the high school.
  • Team reflection: Consultant Mara Vanessa from CURARE once again ran a focus group with Viva a Vida’s team to reflect on our work in 2018. Mara reflected on the current situation in Brazil and its impact on our work, evaluated our activities and described her perceptions of the way the NGO developed over the year, “Despite the difficulties of the current situation, 2018 was a very intense and productive year for Viva a Vida and opened up the possibility of continuing in 2019, albeit under difficult financial circumstances.”
  • Moonlight Beach Party: To finish the year, we threw a moonlight beach party with beneficiaries from all the projects on the beach at Jaua. We sang, ate and celebrated the great achievements of the Theater in Debate and #Viva Juntos Projects.
  • Cine Viva a Vida: Twenty children from the community enjoyed a moment of leisure with Cine Viva a Vida. Vila de Abrantes doesn’t have many leisure options, so the children really look forward to these occasions. This time the film was “Home”, a great comedy that talks about difference.
  • Cultural Occupation - On December 2nd we held a “cultural occupation” of the main square in Vila de Abrantes. The V2 Theater Group presented their play (In)dependence” for the 16th time, alongside an exhibition of the #VivaJuntos graffiti and photography work.
  • Forest Factory visit: 25 young participants of the #VivaJuntos completed their module on social-environmental training as Youth Leaders with a visit to the Forest Factory, an environmental project in Camacari’s green belt region, with learning and inspiration along the trails.
  • The Chamber of Camacari’s TV station, channel 53, interviewed Young people from the #VivaJuntos Project at Shopping Boulevard Camacari where their graffiti and photography worked was being exhibited, produced by Viva a Vida and sponsored by the Fundacion Cepsa and La Vida (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJv7_KjZ6t4 – in Portuguese)
  • Jose Viana, Viva a Vida’s President, held a talk to commemorate Black Consciousness Day at the Educational Center of Marques de Abrantes, a local elementary school, alongside special invitee and young poet, Thiago (#VivaJuntos Project), who performed his fantastic poems! 500 adults and young people attended the event.
Jesse wows his teachers with his poetry!
Jesse wows his teachers with his poetry!
Happy Team Reflection Day!
Happy Team Reflection Day!
Exhibition mounted in high school lobby
Exhibition mounted in high school lobby

Links:

Nov 26, 2018

Art & Community Mobilization Report: Sept-Nov 2018

Marcia & Thiago - mother and son!
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
Graffiti artists at their exhibition
Young artists exhibit their work
Young artists exhibit their work
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: www.globalgiving.org/microprojects/safe-space-rediscover-joy/
Young leaders on our Youth Leadership course
Young leaders on our Youth Leadership course
 
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