Dec 7, 2017

Viva a Vida Community Mobilization: Sept-Dec 2017

Our Ana, Committee Member, Volunteer and much more
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!
After a hard day of graffiti in the garden!
Sep 14, 2017

Art & Community Mobilization Report Jun-Sept 2017

Fabricio - a young actor and admin assistant!
Fabricio - a young actor and admin assistant!

Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!

Since we last spoke, activities have continued apace, with theater workshops and presentations, six-monthly assessments, and a pilot Graffiti Project with young people from the Human Rights and Life Plan Workshops. 

As part of Viva a Vida’s long-term strategy to involve its young participants in the development of the NGO, we would like to share with you the experiences of Fabrício, a 21-year-old member of the V2 Theater Group, who is also Viva a Vida’s Administrative Assistant!

Fabricio was introduced to Viva a Vida two years ago by his Theater Teachers Simone Requião and Tonny Ferreira; at the time he was a member of a theater group in Itinga, a very violent, at-risk neighborhood near Vila de Abrantes.  With a change in local government, the group was closed down and its young members were left with nowhere to go, so Simone invited Fabricio and his colleagues to join Viva a Vida’s theater group.

At the time, Viva a Vida was preparing its play “Sophia’s Dream” for presentation at the National Children and Young People’s Theater Festival in Feira de Santana. However, we were still missing cast members for some of the parts.  Uniting the competence and experience of the young people from Itinga with the enthusiasm of those from Abrantes made a huge difference to the brilliance and passion they all demonstrated at the festival.

Once he was able to return to theater classes, now at Viva a Vida, Fabricio began to dedicate himself increasingly to the art he had chosen.  The V2 Theater Group not only attends theater workshops, but also takes part in exchange visits with young people, ‘laboratory’ visits to social services, round table discussions and other activities that provide a basis for the discussions presented through their performances.

With all these new experiences, Fabricio notes that many things changed in his life “So many things have changed… mainly the way I think and act.  I have good self-esteem, and I have learnt to value this… I can also say that I am an activist in support of minorities, there is discrimination everywhere, but however much I am an activist, when something happens to me or to a colleague when I am there, we still don’t react… we don’t believe that it’s really happening.. it is sad this still happens a lot in the 21st century.  Thankfully, most of the people I live with are quite open-minded.”  Fabricio adds that this view of life has become clearer for him since he joined the group “You might think I would say this, but Viva a Vida believes and supports young people’s empowerment”.

In relation to Viva a Vida’s work in LGBT rights, he notes that “it is always good to take part in debates run by the group Families for Diversity, since, however much time I spend in the LGBT environment, I can always learn more and help to deconstruct the opinions and labels imposed by others.” Following the Families for Diversity debate at Viva a Vida’s center, Fabricio was responsible for representing Viva a Vida when the group made a presentation at the State College of Vila de Abrantes (see our other activities below).

While Fabricio was still in Itinga he was studying at night and, with no theater group, did not have much to do during the day. He lived with his father and was looking for work in order to contribute to the household income.  In this sense, another aspect that has had a great influence on Fabricio’s life, is the fact that he has entered the world of work.  His first employment opportunity emerged when Viva a Vida asked him to join its team as an intern and later as our Administrative Assistant, a post he has occupied for 18 months.

“Thanks to the project, I gained employment within the NGO, which is very flexible in terms of the theater classes… I have had the opportunity to join Viva a Vida’s team and help the project from behind the scenes. It is important that the young people see how important this work is.”

Despite being a young beneficiary, we conducted the selection process as we would for any other post, and saw that Fabricio had the qualities required.  Today, under the supervision of our Administrative Coordinator, he carries out tasks in relation to accounting, administrative and external duties.  He has also contributed a great deal to our Communication activities and is responsible for updating social networks and preparing communication materials for publication.  Fabricio was almost entirely responsible for putting our new website online; without him we still wouldn’t have this extremely important means of communication!

Furthermore, some of you will know that in recent months we have started running Cine Viva a Vida, an open door activity for young people in Abrantes.  Today, Fabricio is responsible for mobilizing participants, preparing communication materials, choosing films and accompanying this activity. For us, this shows how far he has come and how much he has had to offer us in just 18 months!

The experience Fabricio has acquired has given him the maturity to represent the Association in extremely important arenas, such as municipal councils and schools, and wherever Viva a Vida needs to be represented.

All his involvement in administration is reflected in how he interacts with our other beneficiaries.  The other  students recognize him as a role model and are able to see that through a well-developed life plan they can get involved in other arenas, achieve their first job and still continue to dream and work through art.

Fabricio is another fantastic success story, through which we can both see a young person able to dedicate themselves to their art and witness Viva a Vida fulfilling its social role and strengthening its philosophy to develop its beneficiaries so that they can work in partnership with us to manage and run the organization!

Other activities from this period include: 

  • We have started a new project Vila Jovem Grafitta – street art for social mobilization (see photo).  This project teaches a range of art techniques and promotes artistic endeavors to support income and employment, develop skills and address issues such as human rights and racism.  So far, 20 young people from Vila de Abrantes have participated in this project, which will culminate in a community event.
  • A garden presentation of the V2 Theater Group’s devised play ‘Independence’.  We received more than 50 audience members from the community who watched play and got involved in a debate about homophobia, teenage pregnancy, racism and violence.  The play is a montage based on laboratory and exchange visits undertaken by the group, directed by their teacher Simone Requião.  One audience member cried as she reflected on the experience, “the scene with the pregnant girl, I went through this, but I have tried to treat my daughter differently”.
  • Viva a Vida’s partner Families for Diversity held a round table discussion about LGBT-phobia at the State College of Vila de Abrantes, debating, informing and explaining! This activity was attended by 40 young public school students and Viva a Vida was represented by Fabricio (see above).
  • Cine Viva a Vida received ten young pupils from the Municipal School Marina da Gloria, located very close to our center, to watch the film ‘Leap’, as part of our strategy to open our doors to the community.
  • Our External Consultant, Mara Vanessa, conducted focus groups with more than 50 students to assess Viva a Vida’s work over the first semester.  As always, the results surprised us with the quality of responses and the impact on the students’ lives. The Life Plan and Human Rights workshops change young people’s perceptions and enable them to deal with the challenges that life presents them. Our evaluations demonstrated that, following the workshops, 86% felt strengthened and empowered to deal with prejudice and other rights violations.
  • Viva a Vida participated in Global Giving’s International Youth Week Campaign, collecting donations and Facebook likes to support our long-term sustainability.  Huge thanks to all of you who took part and donated so generously!
  • We attended in Camacari’s 8th Municipal Social Care Conference, in order to assess and support local social care policies and raise awareness of how Viva a Vida and other NGOs contribute to this work.
  • On 26th August we invited all young people involved in Viva a Vida activities to attend a Big Get Together Event at our center and, with our President and team members, to develop a new Viva a Vida BATTLE CRY! We will share the final product with you in our next report.
Vila Jovem Grafitta - our budding artists!
Vila Jovem Grafitta - our budding artists!


Jun 1, 2017

Community Mobilization Report March to June 2017

Vinicius - LGBT activist!
Vinicius - LGBT activist!

Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!


Here in Brazil, we are nearing the end of the first academic semester, looking back it’s been a busy time! The Theater Group has been going from strength to strength, our Human Rights and Youth Workshops have raised awareness about rights and responsibilities with 150 students in the first year of high school and we have started a new monthly cinema club.


As part of our celebrations for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (17 May), we sat down with Vinicius, who is a member of both the Theater Group and the Vila Jovem Youth Group, to reflect on his progress with Viva a Vida:


When Vinicius first approached Evelin (our Projects Coordinator) about joining Viva a Vida he frowned and asked her “do you notice anything strange about me?” He watched some of our theatre group’s open rehearsals and couldn’t believe his eyes, but he wasn’t sure about having a male teacher. “I didn’t trust men, I really wanted a female teacher, men used to call me a ‘faggot’.”  Gradually he opened up more, “do you see something wrong when you look at me” (his eyes full of tears), “I saw a beautiful boy, is there something wrong with that”, “I don’t know, whenever I go to places or groups, people swear at me and treat me badly, because they think I’m different.”  And Evelin said, “but you are different Vinicius.  I can see it in your eyes.  You are more sensitive than other boys.  You are brave, because you are here, opening your heart to us.  For this alone, I would agree, you are very different”.


Vinicius had problems at school, at first he was bullied and then he started bullying others and the school was planning to expel him.  Simone (our Theater Teacher) talked to the school and asked for time to address these issues with him.  After a lot of supportive work, Vinicius started to change.  So much so, that at the beginning of this year, Vinicius opened the school’s Annual Planning day, running the group activity with the teachers and presenting his monologue (part of the In dependence play).  It was great to see the teachers’ surprise, they couldn’t believe the change in him, and welcomed the work that had provided him with the opportunity to change.


“It was a complete turnaround, after so much difficulty and some of the bad things I used to do, to be able to go back and show them how much I have changed and how much I have learnt.  Today [when they see me] at the school’s cultural events, they always congratulate me”.


In his own words, Vinicius, the “frowning, fragile, victimized boy”, has given way to a courageous LGBTT activist, daring to say that he is a feminist, because, as he makes clear, he supports women’s rights too: “I use the term sexuality instead of orientation, because that way I feel I am also supporting the cause of women.  It is a gender struggle, both against machismo and for my sexual orientation”.


Vinicius sees himself as strong and ready to face up to personal challenges.  “What has most helped me at Viva a Vida is having arguments to put forward.  Viva a  Vida has helped me to overcome each stage, we cannot be the poor victim of the story, I learnt to stop, take a breath, see what’s happening and react... With the theater and Vila Jovem I have learnt about social and political issues.  Without Viva a Vida, I would not know how to argue”. 


Vinicius represented the state of Bahia at a national meeting of LGBTT adolescents, which was a huge step for him, “I got to know empowered people and when I came back I started researching things, and we are still discussing them”.


Asked about his sexual orientation, Vinicius responds: “I feel secure, when I see someone talking about machismo, homophobia, I get involved straight away.  Because people can’t just go around saying what they want.


At the beginning, his mother didn’t like the theatre or his participation in the group, “but today, she comes to watch the plays and asks me loads of questions. Some about sexuality that even embarrass me”, he laughs.


What helped him to change so much?  Where did he find the support and strength to overcome discrimination.  How do you learn to be yourself?  How much can projects contribute to this kind of education? Do you think it’s worth donating?


“If it wasn’t for Viva a Vida, I would be frustrated, I wouldn’t have achieved my goals, I wouldn’t have had the experience of theatre, I wouldn’t have the knowledge I have today, I wouldn’t know how to relate to people, I wouldn’t have got to where I am today.  Three years ago, I was so introspective and I didn’t trust anyone”.


Other activities from this term include: 

  • International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia - on 17 May, we ran a debate about LGBT-phobia with sixteen young people from the community, to hear their experiences and reflect on the sad reality of violence experienced by this group.  The young people talked about how they address the issue with their parents and at school, and their personal struggles with their own sexuality. “I have never said this before, but I am bisexual, my family accepts it, but I have never felt so free to talk about it in a group”, said a 18-year-old female participant.
  • On 25th March, eighteen young people took part in a cultural exchange activity at Circo Picolino in Salvador to celebrate Circus Day; this included an extremely popular clowning workshop!
  • Twenty-four members of the theater group were taken to Salvador to watch the play “Me and the Other” as part of their cultural exchange activities
  • Cinema  Club – since March twenty-seven children and adolescents have watched two films at Viva a Vida as part of our efforts to provide leisure activities and open our doors to young members of the community.
  • Ensuring young voices are heard: six young participant representatives took part in our Strategic Planning Day in April, twenty met members of our new Trustee Board in May and two young people are representatives on our Fundraising Working Group, helping to maintain unity and integration between participants, staff and the board.
Standing up to LGBT phobia
Standing up to LGBT phobia
Warming up for the Clown Workshop
Warming up for the Clown Workshop
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