Many poor families living in the city of Lages in south Brazil have migrated there from the countryside in search of employment to better their lives. Due to limited job opportunities among the ever-growing population there, however, families instead find themselves continuing to live in poverty, and having to move into impoverished urban developments such as Novo Milênio, which lacks electricity, drinking water, and even sewage service. Within this slum community, public schools are ill-equipped to provide a quality education to an increasing number of students.
Children roam the streets - sad, neglected, and vulnerable to the threats of crime. Thankfully, the CARITAS-Novo Milênio Center, a non-profit organization run by the Catholic Church of Brazil, was established to help support these children and their families so that they may break the cycle of poverty in which they live. Formed in Germany in 1897, CARITAS works around the world to help alleviate the suffering of the poor, while also giving them the tools they need to transform their own lives.
Sports helping kids
While visiting our affiliated projects in Brazil, our International Projects Specialist, Andreia Beraldo, arrived at CARITAS-Novo Milênio during their annual PinhaoFestival, which is a national celebration. During these festivities, the center sells wines and foods made of pinhao, a pine nut harvested in the southern region of the country. The center holds the largest festival of this type in the country, and has gained national attention as a result, bringing in famous artists and visitors from all over the country every year. The administrators there prepare for the festival all year long. It lasts ten days total, is the main source of funding for the center, and it provides salaries for the staff.
After attending the festival, Andreia met with our new Volunteer Coordinator, Yara, to discuss the programs that the center offers to the children and their parents. The center supports about fifty children on a regular basis, many of whom are sponsored through our program. In addition to receiving clothes, food, school supplies, and hygiene items, thanks to sponsors and donors, the kids are also kept safe at the center. One of the ways in which it does this is through a soccer club. The club not only ensures that children get the exercise they need to stay healthy, but it also keeps them busy after school, so that they do not become involved with drugs or violence, which are prevalent in the impoverished community in which they live.
Yara told Andreia that she wished there were more support for the soccer club; she would love for the children to have new uniforms and soccer cleats - and the field is in need of renovation. Yara mentioned that with a new soccer field, the center could rent it for use by other teams, and generate even more income - which would be a big help in supporting even more children in the future.
A variety of other programs
Along with the soccer program, a volunteer psychologist at the center has been helping the community for several years now. He provides individual and group therapy, which are essential to recovery for children and families after experiencing violence and abuse. The center also provides support to pregnant women and newborns in the community. The administration regularly provides classes on abuse prevention and being a good citizen. The center also has a program called “Mesa Brasil,” in which groceries and fresh produce are distributed to families two to three times a week.
Before her visit ended, Andreia was also able to see a community bakery that is run by CARITAS. The bakery was started about six years ago with the help of donated funds from Children Incorporated, and it allows mothers of our sponsored and unsponsored kids to generate extra income. The mothers often get together when they are not baking to share ideas and recipes, and to discuss how they can work together to increase their incomes through baking - thereby supporting their families so that they may have the opportunity to escape poverty.