After such a rough and challenging year, we would like to share with you, our global supporters, the actions that Vaga Lume Association took to support rural communities in the Amazon. All this work was done by our donors, partners, employees, and of course, our almost 1,000 volunteers from, and spread through, the Legal Brazilian Amazon.
At the beginning of the year Vaga Lume was ready for a year full of challenges based on an expansion plan to open at least 4 new libraries in Amazon rural communities at the same time that we would continue to manage the existingl 86 community libraries, providing courses, trainings, immersions, meetings and sending 10,000 news books to the region.
But then… the pandemic arrived, the world rapidly changed, people could not get together, get close, be together without a mask, no touch before sanitizers. And, of course, our work, just like everything else, was hit by this big world issue. Yet, Vaga Lume responded.
We established safety rules and work conditions for employees and volunteers, at the same time that we had to close the libraries so it would not contribute to the virus dissemination. We acted as fast as we could and collected thousands of humanitary aid donations to send to the rural communities in the Amazon and we adapted: creating and optimizing ways to communicate better with our beneficiaries and volunteers in the region.
We have learned even more about the potential of the virtual connection and because of that we now have a pilot project to take internet connection to two communities in Tefé, a city located in Amazonas state. Besides all of that we also adapted our volunteer trainings to an online format and, since the libraries were closed, this year the books were individually sent to children, in their homes, so they could read and travel the magical world of literature without getting exposed.
Now, in consideration to your support we would like to bring you Our achievements in 2020:
Humanitarian aid delivered to Amazonian communities:
Books and Library items:
Trainings and Meetings
And here we are now. After all of this we can only thank you for your support and wish you a very happy and healthy 2021!
The Brazilian Legal Amazon corresponds to 61% of the national territory and covers nine out of twenty-seven of the Brazilian states. The region concentrates one of the greatest diversities of fauna and flora in the world. In addition, there is a diversity of communities that inhabit it: more than 180 indigenous people, more than 500 quilombola communities – the descendants of slaves who escaped from Brazil's plantations in order to build a new community to achieve its freedom -, riverside communities, and the populations who are living in large cities that might recognize themselves or not in these denominations and groups.
Thus, in addition to all the environmental diversity, we also find many different cultures present in the Amazon, each one with its own form of organization and social interaction. Some researches show an important dimension of the life of the populations that live in the forest: the management of the biodiversity in these communities happens through its cultural practices, cultivated since centuries ago through the use of techniques of low environmental impacts.
These studies also show that the removal of populations from their lands, the interference in the way they live and the occupation of the land for activities such as the cultivation of soybeans or cattle, can generate impacts that has no coming back from to one of thewealthiest natural reserves in the world. Nowadays, it is possible to affirm that the main threats present in the region are due to deforestation, caused predominantly by illegal logging and agriculture.
All these forms of the use of the land generate conflicts and interfere in the way traditional populations live and use the soil, whether they are riverside, indigenous or quilombolas. These impacts cause losses for society in general, such as environmental de-characterization, loss of quality of life and increase of violence.
Since 2019, both traditional populations and the biodiversity of the forest have been threatened due to the increase of fires, often illegal, and the persecution of traditional people. In 2020, in addition to the risk that these populations are facing due to the arrival of COVID-19 in the region, they had to face deforestation and the risk of protecting their territory. Data shows that Brazil is one of the deadliest countries for environmental activists *. Researches indicate that the increase in deforestation and the persecution of traditional peoples may be related to the federal government ‘s strong position of encouraging the use of weapons and exploring the soil for production in the Amazon region.
Traditional populations have been in constant fight for their rights, their occupied lands and the maintenance of their culture. Due to the current scenario, it is extremely important that we support traditional communities by recognizing their importance to environmental conservation and valuing their cultures.
* Global Witness
Reactivated at the end of 2018, the Youth Council of Vaga Lume is composed of 8 former participants of the Net Program who decided to form a group of young volunteers willing to help in the Program's activities and in others Vaga Lume events after acquiring the lessons provided by intercultural exchange. The Council's return in 2019 came in full swing: the volunteers were present at institutional events and were able to share their experiences with cultural exchange in spaces such as the 9th Congress and even the Annual Net Camp.
This year, the Council has been even more active and has participated in several fronts of the organization. On their own initiative the group of young volunteers started to participate in our social media with two posts per month. In addition, during quarantine, the Council is developing activities that keep the teenagers of Net Program engaged with cultural activities, books and reading. In July, the challenge proposed for teenagers was to recite poetry and contribute to a joint work that resulted in a recitation library shared between the participants. Finally, the Council is also mobilizing politically in favor of maintaining and developing public and quality education in Brazil, which is constantly under attack and risk.
With the involvement of former participants in the planning and implementation of Vaga Lume actions aimed at cultural exchange, it is possible to obtain a more accurate dimension of the medium and long term impacts of the Net Program on teenagers, in addition to facilitating constant improvement and reinvention of the actions proposed by the Program. Thus, the impact of the program on youth empowerment is evident. By being able to count on the participation of these young people in institutional events and actions, doors are opening for the generation of autonomy and of their own and even greater social engagement by the ex-participants of the Program.
Vaga Lume’s cultural exchange program, known as Net Program, focuses on reducing the existing gaps and distances between teenagers from rural communities in the Legal Amazon Forest and from São Paulo, and one of its most important contributions to the youths that participate on the project it is the construction of a respectful and equal dialogue - considering socioeconomic, educational, racial and territorial inequalities -, between these realities.
Currently, following the recommendations of international health agencies, Vaga Lume was able to adapt the project in a way that the participants could still be able to have exchanges and youth engagement, even by distance and remotely. One of the solutions that the Organization found to keep the exchanges ongoing, which could occur by revisiting how the Program used to make the exchanges in the beginning back to 2005, was to carry out through the exchange of letters. This idea was revived as we understand that it is a safe solution to carry out exchanges considering the pandemic scenario and social distancing.
Within each letter it is possible to find the teenagers' curiosity for the exchange pairs' experience, such as the desire to know the different realities and cultures found in Brazil. The letters also share how each teenager is dealing during this period of social isolation and the solutions that were developed by each one of them. These letters were already produced and some are already on their way to the communities and São Paulo.
Vaga Lume understands that this action contributes to teenagers to develop socio-emotional competencies and skills capable of making them have a broader worldview and be able to exercise their citizenship.
In addition, we highlight the importance of these exchanges as it contributes to the lives of teenagers during the pandemic. The North region of the country, where the rural communities that participate in Vaga Lume’s project are located, doesn’t offer the necessary infrastructure to keep children and teenagers engaged with education and culture, there are only few communities that have quality internet access and often there isn’t access to fulltime energy. The participation in the Program, even if through a simple action such as the exchanging of letters, mobilizes young people and promotes involvement with reading and writing.
Vaga Lume is constantly learning and seeks to understand its role in this pandemic, which, unfortunately, has had a major impact in the Brazilian Amazon. Only in the state of Amazonas, the largest state in the region, 48,785 confirmed cases and 2,250 deaths from COVID-19 until June 6th.
This virus has exposed to the world three important things about the Amazon: first, it is a region that is well populated. This confronts the stereotype that, in the forest, there are a few tribes in remote areas. Specialists say that there are only 30 to 40 small tribes deep in the forest without contact with the outside world. In the Amazon there are millions (24 to be exact) inhabitants that occupies riverbeds of the forest and its interiors. The second thing, related to first one, is that these communities are well linked to each other. The virus did spread quite rapidly because boats go through many of the regions of the Amazon. These boats carry around 150+ passengers and stops very often in the communities through the rivers. So, the virus got well adapted to travel by boat. In a recent study, Tefé, a city which is a hub to the western Amazon, had around 25% of people infected by the virus. This leads to the third conclusion: that public policy is not efficient in this region, and basic services just don’t work. There are very few ICUs in Manaus, Belém, Macapá and Rio Branco, but none in the smaller villages, so that is why mortality rate is bigger.
To understand our role in this context, we followed two of our values: "Listening" and "Humanism". We held consultations to understand how we could act building a bridge between those who need contributions and those who want to contribute. To protect and support 960 volunteers and rural communities in the Amazon, Vaga Lume started a humanitarian campaign that has already distributed: 8,050 cloth face masks for the communities, 2,100 acetate masks to support the hospitals and health units and 1,200 units of alcohol gel. In addition, we mobilized psychologists to provide support to volunteers and communities. Throughout this process, we continue supporting education and culture, rethinking the roles of the library and the books in context.
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