Our Ana, Committee Member, Volunteer and much more
Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!
The summer semester here in Abrantes has been a busy one, with the Vila Jovem Grafitta – street art for social mobilization growing in numbers, enthusiasm and techniques, an Open Agenda Youth meeting combining a lively debate about youth rights with a graffiti activity and another highly successful garden presentation of the V2 Theater Group’s devised play ‘Independence’.
Each day I see more clearly the importance of Viva a Vida’s work, particularly in activities with adolescents, and being a “Safe Harbor”, in which they can shelter and trust
This month, we’d like to do something different and share Ana’s inspirational story from behind the scenes. Ana was Viva a Vida’s Administrator and now sits on our Oversight Committee, is a member of our Fundraising Working Group and also finds time to support us as a volunteer. Here is what Ana would like to share with you.
“I live in Abrantes and I know how the violence has grown in this region, cutting down the lives of children and adolescents who are born into a dysfunctional society and are survivors of so many evils - their childhoods stolen from them and with no prospects for the future”.
Ana, our Ana as we call her, is 47 years old, was born and lives in Catu de Abrantes, the nearby community in which our first administrative office was based, and where we got to know her. At the time, Ana was the administrator of another NGO and, because of her dedication and professionalism, as soon as she left that job, we at Viva a Vida invited her to work as our administrator.
This worked very well, until Ana decided to move on to new horizons. But the bond was so strong that Ana became a volunteer and a member of Viva a Vida’s Oversight Committee.
“I was very happy with the group that worked at Viva a Vida and I was already involved in the NGO’s goals, so, in order not to break completely and continue supporting the work, I was invited to become part of the Oversight Committee and I accepted immediately.”
This is Ana’s background at Viva a Vida, but we would like to present her personal success story, to give some idea of the social context in which Viva a Vida works and to celebrate her achievements, which she uses to enrich our work.
“I am the daughter of Valter Veloso, carpenter and master of works, and Dirce Fanco Veloso, housewife, neither of whom completed elementary school. I am the ninth child of 11, the third girl of 4 girls and 7 boys”.
Ana studied at public schools her entire life, until she went to university. She remembers that, because of her hard work, she received a 70% grant for a course to study for the university entrance exam. Ana worked during the day and studied at night, commuting 36 kilometers per day, and remembers the difficulties she had with poor public transport, something that continues to this day.
“During this period, my mother became ill and then died in April 2000. I thought of dropping everything, I was so discouraged and sad. A week later, my sister, who was 8 months’ pregnant, lost her baby and, as her unmarried sister, I stayed with her in hospital. I needed to be strong to support someone who needed it more than me”.
Despite so many difficulties – financial and emotional – Ana remained at university, struggling on.
“The monthly fees of the Administration Course were more than my salary. I twice tried to get a government loan but was refused, I sought out and managed to get an assistance grant from the municipality of Camaçari and a discount from the faculty for transport costs, but putting this altogether it was still more than my budget, so I used two months’ salary to pay the monthly fees and ‘sold’ my holidays. In 2005, I completed my university course and was highly commended. At the time I was 36 years old, I only regret not having started earlier. Crisis provides an opportunity for growth and I am living proof of that!”
All of this strengthened Ana, who also suffered a great deal with the loss of her nephew, killed by neighborhood violence. This is the sad, but expert, knowledge of daily life in the community that she brings to Viva a Vida - wisdom you cannot find at any university.
“Each day I see more clearly the importance of Viva a Vida’s work, particularly in activities with adolescents, and being a “Safe Harbor”, in which they can shelter and trust, with so many circumstances of vulnerability, which are common during this phase of life”.
Our partnership with Ana extends to community work, though activities undertaken with the school in her community, where her sister Rosangela is Director. She also supported an event at our center about the importance of family in tackling homophobia, in which another of her sisters, Katia, participated and talked about own family experience of this issue.
“There are cases of drug involvement in my family and I know how difficult it is and how everyone involved suffers. I understand that prevention and strengthening bonds is the safest and most efficient way to deal with this issue”.
Ana has transformed her life story into inspiration, giving back all that she has achieved to her community and to society.
“I believe that all of us in society have a responsibility to everything around us, directly or indirectly. Supporting Viva a Vida, even in a small way, is my way of contributing to a fairer and more egalitarian society”.
A bit more about our other activities this semester:
- On 11 November we held our Open Agenda Youth meeting looking at youth policy in the municipality and discussing youth rights. We welcomed young people from Originais da Apito and Articular Juventude of the Paulo Tonucci Association from the city of Camaçari, who presented their group and mediated a debate with almost 40 young people. As a result of this meeting, in 2018 the young people will send an official letter to the City Council Chamber demanding the establishment of a Youth Council in Camaçari. This council is essential in asserting the rights of young people and creating appropriate policies for this age group. The meeting was followed by a graffiti activity run by Vila Jovem Grafitta – street art for social mobilization (see photo).
- Vila Jovem Grafitta also held a special session at our center in November to practice what they have learnt in their art classes and explore art and protagonism with their Arts Educator.
- This semester, as one of their cultural exchanges, the V2 theater group watched the play “Their History” which dealt with issues related to homosexuality. At the end of the play, the young people were invited to talk to the cast to discuss artistic and social matters related to the performance.
- Once again, the V2 theater group performed (In)Dependence in our garden, attended by over 40 members of the community who participated in a post-performance debate. We were very moved to hear from one of the young people’s mothers, who became quite emotional as she reflected on issues to do with family relationships and poverty from the play which strongly reflected her life experience. She, and a number of other community members, praised the strong performances and messages in the play and noted that this was the first ever time they had attended a theater performance.
- We were very happy to welcome Giancarlo, our Evaluation and Communications Volunteer, who was visiting from London. Both the team and our young actors thanked Giancarlo for his exemplary support over the years.
- Cine Viva a Vida continues – this semester showing Sing, Hotel Transylvania and Moana to younger members of the Abrantes community. In the last session we were particularly pleased with the way these young cinema goers organized themselves and looked after the Viva a Vida space, demonstrating growing autonomy and responsibility.
After a hard day of graffiti in the garden!