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!

Links:

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
Mar 3, 2017

Community Mobilization Report Jan-March 2017

Ana Clara - selling dreams for laughter!
Ana Clara - selling dreams for laughter!

Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!

 

Since our last report, we have largely been focusing on reports, evaluations, planning and target setting.  You can find the Portuguese version of our Annual Report on our website, a summary version in English will follow soon.

 

In the meantime, we wanted to share with you a very poetic text written by Ana Clara, who’s 17 and involved in both the V2 Theater Group and the Vila Jovem Youth Group.   In the text, Ana Clara tells an imaginary stranger how she feels about being on stage:

 

Dear Somebody, once they asked me what my dream was, then I thought, and thought and thought a little bit more, but in the end I didn’t know what to say, not for lack of dreams, but because of the immense number that I have.  I am overflowing with dreams, I am overflowing in my smile, my look, my words, my soul, and particularly on the stage.

On the stage we are free spirits, with dreams to give and sell, but we don’t sell these dreams for money, we sell them for laughter, feelings and emotions. The stage is my origin, the stage is my house, my safe harbor, I am a bird flying over skies and other things.  Away from it I feel empty, incomplete. Perhaps my greatest dream, dear somebody, is to sell dreams, to sell them through my art, my texts, my music and poetry.

Sincerely, from somebody else.

 

Ana Clara joined the group four years ago, having (unwillingly!) moved with her family from the south of Brazil to the state of Bahia.  This is what she has to say about her experiences:

 

Joining the theater group helped me a lot, I didn’t want to know about anything else, the theater made me accept Bahia… What motivates me to stay are the people, the NGO, everything here has been so important... because it changed what I am, it taught me what I can be. I feel very happy at Viva a Vida, I feel good, sometimes when I have a problem, I run over here, this is my safe haven.  Here, people can be what they want to be, here I can be myself, here I lost half my shyness.  This has helped me in several ways, before, if I fell over in the street, I would want to hide my head in a hole, I would be so embarrassed, now I just laugh at things.

 

If I hadn’t learnt what I have learnt at Viva a Vida I wouldn’t have any friends at school, because I didn’t know how to approach people.  At home, I didn’t talk to my family, today I talk more, but talk back less (laughs).  I am already thinking of several things for university: performing arts, cinema or audio-visual arts to direct plays or studying letters. This is because of the influence and my love of theater.

 

Congratulations to Ana Clara for her very powerful and moving words! 

Another achievement during this period was our presentation to high school teachers at their Annual Planning Day.  Vinicius, one of our long-term participants, joined us in setting out our 2017 plans for school-based Human Rights workshops and other activities.  Vinicius led the group activities and presented the monologue he has written, which addresses mental health issues.  We were particularly struck by what the teachers had to say about the positive impact of Viva a Vida’s work on their students and how they can tell which of their students are participating in our activities because of their improved attitudes and behavior.  They have seen these students develop critical thinking, improve their self-esteem and learn to respect differences. 

 

Our team and young participants ran some community-based activities in January and February, all thanks to YOUR donations.  Here’s a brief summary:

 

  • The Vila Jovem Youth Group continued their poetry meetings and worked on editing their video about Vila de Abrantes.  They have since presented this to:

 

  • 20 young members of a local capoeira group (see attached photo)
  • 80 high school students at CEVA, the local high school
  • 8 outpatients at the local Psychosocial (Mental Health) Center

 

  • The V2 Theater Group ran a fantastic open seminar to present one of their most important references, Augusto Boal of Theater for the Oppressed, to the community.  The young people discussed his theories and practices and then used some of these techniques to interact with the 13 community invitees.

 

  • The Centre for Psychosocial Care for Drugs and Alcohol in the city of Camaçari ran a lively “Carnival Shout Out” for 40 of their services users, families and community members, in order to publicize their services, integrate the center with the local community and celebrate Carnival.  The V2 Theatre Group lit up the event with a presentation of Ana Clara’s monologue and other activities. 
Watching the Youth Group's video
Watching the Youth Group's video

Links:

 
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