Alice is now a philosophy student
Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters,
We are so excited to start this year with wonderful news! One of our theater graduates, Alice, a tongue-tied teenager, from a violent and poor neighborhood, with mental health problems and serious family difficulties, has been accepted into a prestigious state university to study philosophy!
“The theater was my refuge... I was always very reserved with everyone, the theater helped me to be less afraid of the world and made more open to getting to know new people and having new experiences”.
Alice loves philosophy, but other people were always discouraging her from applying for the course. A state school student, living in an extremely violent neighborhood and without support from her family, Alice didn’t have any reason to believe she’d be capable of entering a public university.
A sweet girl, who experienced many difficulties throughout her life, Alice came to Viva a Vida through its theater course when she was 14 years old and remained until she was 18. During this period, she acted brilliantly in a number of V2 Theatre Group performances.
In 2019, she returned as a student for drawing and graffiti classes in the #VivaJuntosSustentabilidade (#LivingTogetherSustainabilty) project.
“When the theater was in recess (when the project’s funding ended) I knew I needed something to occupy my mind… that was when I started taking the graffiti classes”.
During this period, Alice confronted perhaps the most sensitive moment of her personal life. She comes from a religious family and has suffered a lot of discrimination for her life choices. Art was always a great challenge for Alice, the interpretations, being in someone else’s shoes, the escape, the refuge… this young woman has always had to prove to her family that art has benefited her life, including her health.
Alice suffers from depression and her family has never understood the illness. They have always related her behavior to religious factors. So, throughout her adolescence she was “encouraged” to participate in religious rites to ‘cure’ her illness.
“I didn't want to be a burden… when they began to notice, they had the reaction I expected, they said that I was looking for attention and this really deepened my depression.”
Despite knowing about this illness Alice needed to follow the recommendations of those who were responsible for her. It was at Viva a Vida that Alice was really able to feel safe enough to talk about her feelings. She established a strong relationship with Theatre Teacher Simone Requião and became stronger in her convictions and attitudes.
“I have lost count of the number of times I went to class trying not to cry and it was enough for her (Simone) to look at me and give me a hug and I couldn’t contain my tears.”
A significant breach occurred at the end of 2019, when Alice was physically attacked by her father and brother. With no support from other family members, she had nowhere to live. This was when Viva a Vida’s president stepped in and offered her somewhere temporary to stay, while she sorted out her problems.
“I was desperate, I wanted to end everything, I couldn’t bear to live with them, nor with myself”.
At this point, Alice was already 19 years old and opted to stay away from her family and try to reconstruct her life. She notes that it was the NGO that supported her in finding specialized psychological assistance and ensured that all the apparatus of support was available to her, in line with Viva a Vida’s Child Protection Approach and Policy.
“I went to get help from the NGO and they took me in, I was more frail than ever, and this new family helped me and gave me support in every way and it was through their support that I passed the university entrance examination”.
During this period, Alice, with support from Viva a Vida’s president, applied to join the philosophy degree at the prestigious Bahia State University (UNEB) – one of her dreams. We well remember how her lack of confidence and low self-esteem nearly prevented her from having the courage to fill out the application.
But, on the contrary, with Viva a Vida’s support, Alice is about to start this university philosophy degree. On her own merits, with no special preparatory course, studying at home, in the middle of all the chaos she has suffered, Alice has triumphed! It’s time for something so important for her life – a new beginning…
“When I got the news that I had passed the exam, I was speechless, because I had no hope, I didn’t feel capable of it. But there were people who believed in me and I am so grateful to these people.”
Massive congratulations to Alice, we look forward to seeing her keep growing and learning!
In other news, the end of the old year and the start of the new is a time for evaluation, reflection and planning at Viva a Vida. These are some of the activities your fantastic support has made possible over this period:
- Giving Tuesday – December 2 is Giving Tuesday and, with support from the GlobalGiving platform and your donations, Viva a Vida ran a campaign to encourage people to help transform the lives of young people in the Vila de Abrantes community. Through social media we raised U$ 885.00, which has been transformed into materials for our graffiti classes, benefiting 20 new students to the #VivaJuntosSustentabilidade (#LivingTogetherSustainabilty) project, who will learn drawing and mount an exhibition of their great work.
- Eradicating Child Labor – Before the year ended we met with the Commission to Eradicate Child Labor to align our agendas for the construction of a municipal plan of activities to prevent and combat child labor. Following this meeting, Viva a Vida formed a partnership with the local Social Work and Specialized Social Work Reference Centers, through which we have made 20 places available exclusively for adolescents identified as child laborers on the new Graffiti and Human Right course.
- Political Activism - Youth:
- Viva a Vida’s young people participated in a sensational exchange on December 17 including very rich experiences with the young people from the Zé Ferina Library, an institution that provides training in politics, literature and cinema in the extremely violent Salvador neighborhood of Beiru. Our young people were able to learn about how to construct and maintain a community structure based on the principles of social struggle.
- On February 12, the young people also got to know the activist group Reaja ou Será Morto (React or Be Killed) which is made up of activists fighting against the genocide of the black population. The movement has been active for 10 years and pushes back against the racism perpetuated by the Brazilian state. “I was so impressed with the Group REAJA, it was so good to see how they have resisted alone and continue to resist.” said Lucas a 21-year-old Viva a Vida assistant.
- Evaluation and Reflection:
- Evaluation with our young assistances is full of surprises and learning. Having young people supporting the management of the NGO is not for everyone and we are so proud to have them at the “command” of this social transformation machine. We met in December to evaluate this process and traced our time line, re-examining targets and celebrating achievements! The assistants identified their learning over this period; it was great to see how the training is working for them. Some examples of learning include: learning how to deal with people; learning how to work in a team; learning how to seek one’s rights; learning how to contribute to other people’s lives, even if they’re different from ours; learning to be concerned about the growth and learning of others – great work team!
- Evaluation of the #VivaJuntosSustentabilidade beneficiaries: This group began in June and has brought so much pleasure to everyone: art exhibitions, arts events, great graffiti and poetry. Lives transformed and transforming. On 17 February we finalized the first stage of the project with an evaluation session.
- Team: the year began on January 8 with evaluation and reflection mediated by Juracy Bahia, a student of economy and third sector management, youth worker and one of Viva a Vida’s founders. The day was full of satisfaction at the great results achieved in 2019.
- Volunteering: on January 8 we received a team from a large sports brand (we are not able to divulge its name yet), with the promise of a solid volunteer partnership – fingers crossed!!
- Awards: Another award! We are extremely happy to have been one of three institutions chosen out of 37 social organizations around Brazil for the Ideal Social Volunteer Advisory Award. In 2020, we will receive extremely significant professional Fundraising training from the agency; our first meeting is booked for 23 March – onwards and upwards!
- Human and Socio-environmental Rights, Racism and Violence Workshops: One more year of partnership with the State College of Vila de Abrantes. For over five years, Viva a Vida has provided Human and Socio-environmental Rights, Racism and Violence Workshops as part of the school’s annual calendar and this year the young people from the #VivaJuntosSustentabilidade project will support this work. On February 3 we attended Teachers’ Planning Day at the college to begin organizing these activities.
- Integration: Viva a Vida’s Integration Day is our symbolic first day of the year following the summer holidays, when we look at our results and targets and plan the year. To help us begin with power and happiness, we invited Alberto Paim to run an clown workshop on February 6, it was amazing. 2020 is starting well!
- Planning: February was the month to plan classes that start in March:
- Drawing classes with long term students including graffiti and political training – 10 students;
- Graffiti and political awareness training for adolescent child laborers – 20 students;
- Human and Socio-environmental Rights, Racism and Violence Workshops for more than 200 high school students.
Integration - starting the year in step!
Meeting of our graffiti students
Peer educator planning meeting