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The International Esperança Centre, a breath of fresh air for young people from a favela in Fortalez

Summary : The International Esperança Centre, affiliated with the association Chant des Hommes et à l’Agence de Coopération au service d’un Développement Solidaire et Equitable (ACODESE 1 - Song of Men and Cooperation Agency at the service of Solidarity and Equality Development), welcomes young people from 7-18 years of age living in the streets of a favela in Fortaleza (Brazil), in order to educate them and give them a chance to join the workforce.

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  • Start date : 2002
  • Implementation site : Fortaleza, Brazil
  • Budget : 250000 €
  • Source and details on funding : UNICEF, Ceara State, Fortaleza City, Pena Group, Le Chant des Hommes, the Schools of Hope ...



Editorial committee

  • Date of proofreading :  31/03/2015 00:00
Opinion of the Committee : Source of inspiration !
Solution(s) : Culture, sport and leisure activities Education Job
Country :  Brazil
Stature of the programme :  Local
Participant :  Association, ONG
  • Beneficiaries :  Pupil, students, Bottom Of the Pyramid (BOP), Adolescents
  • Domain :  Leisures activities, Sports, Education, Training, Essential goods, Food aid

Reports collected as part of the RESOLIS programme « Taking Action together against dropping out of school » (2015)

Copyright: Licence Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ )
To reference a document published by RESOLIS : Cabanes Guillaume , « The International Esperança Centre, a breath of fresh air for young people from a favela in Fortalez », **Journal RESOLIS** (2015)

Background to the programme

At the end of the 1990s, Guillaume Cabanes, while cooperating with the NGO Cearah PERIFERIA and Oxfam, met a professional surfer, João Carlos, called "Will", who grew up in Titanzinho , one of the favelas of Fortaleza (capital of the state of Ceara, Brazil ). Joao Carlos wanted to help the children and youths of this particularly deprived neighbourhood. In 2002, the International Esperança Centre opened its doors and initially offered education through sport for young people aged between 7-18 from the favela. These young people, who for the most part have lost their parents or have left home, aren't socialised, often live on the streets and many are drug addicts and under the control of a gang or traffickers ... A 6 year old child in this situation has a life expectancy of 8 years.

Objectives of the programme

- General objective: to develop activities to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged children and young people from the favela of Fortaleza, with two major challenges:
1 / help these young people recover physically and psychologically. Convince them to sign a contract of trust with
the centre to follow a school curriculum.
2 / keep these young people in school until they've received basic professional training

Implemented actions

It's not a shelter. Young people come every day, for half a day. They eat (often their only meal), receive clothes and participate in activities. 4 levels
- Prevention and education of children, families and inhabitants of the favela so that children who are going to school, can be hosted by residents in the evening. Sports activities, (football, surfing, skateboarding, volleyball) the popular sport is a vital hook (new: specific project for young girls); meetings with families; meetings with social help; mediation on issues of violence, conflicts in the favela and/or family problems. Sport is used as a vehicle to involve young people and as a way to attract them to the centre.
-> Schooling of young people: they sign a contract of trust with the centre that becomes their legal tutor. They agree to go to school every day and participate in activities at the centre (literacy classes, tutoring, sports activities ...)
-> Professional training: for 13-18 year olds, 2 hour sessions three times a week in electrical engineering, plumbing, baking, recycling, crafts and placements in supportive businesses.
-> Economic development and job creation through cooperative workshops: production of balloons, manufacture and repair of surfboards, bakery ...

Quantitative and qualitative results from the implemented actions

- 6,000 young people welcomed since the beginning of the project. Per year, on average, 600 young people come to the centre and are therefore taught.
- Out of the 600, 20% drop out and don't come to the centre. 5% have great difficulty but don't drop out. 16% of young people get to the baccalaureate. 65% go on to professional training (which begins around age 13).
- Percentage of young people integrated into the workforce: slightly below 35%, which is a challenge for the centre.
- Pedagogy recognised by UNICEF

Original characteristics

- The centre is innovative in its methodology: indeed it combines prevention, community involvement and a human development program through education with sport.
- Very few actions are offered to this section of the public who are particularly difficult to reach
- The Centre has created its own craft cooperative and professional training: the trainers teach surfboard manufacturing techniques, bread making for the bakery and a craft workshop (jewellery, decorations ...)

Partnership(s) developed in the context of the programme

Federation of residents' associations from Fortaleza's favelas; churches, even if the centre is secular. Two churches help with donations (food and clothing) and make a kitchen available. National movement of rag and bone men in Fortaleza. Palmas Institute: partner for technical training for the cooperative. City of Fortaleza, Ceara State, including the Secretariat for Social Action and the Secretariat for Sports. Unicef. Patron companies: including the PENA group (donations of sports equipment and hosting young apprentices)


Difficulties and/or obstacles encountered during the programme’s implementation :

- Very violent context: the residents are under the control of drug dealers and gangs. An important question: how can we work in this neighbourhood without negotiating with the dealers?
- Difficult to convince the young people to come to the centre and become involved; it takes between one and two years.
- The behaviour of the young people is not predictable: they can disappear, never come back, start taking drugs again ... Very difficult to keep a calendar with objective targets in these conditions
- There is no work in the favela and many companies do not want to welcome these young people.
- Significant turnover of volunteers: they are handling difficult situations and are rarely thanked.
- Make sure that the team manages to hold together, practically and psychologically

Solutions used to overcome the difficulties and/or obstacles :

- Young people who want to participate sign a contract of trust: they must respect the centre's strict working rules (eg. do not use drugs, don't be late, sign a register every day), and lose these benefits after 2 days of absence from the school. The team is strict with the rules as they allow excessive violence to be prevented and controlled.
- Encourage the teams to adapt to these challenging members of the public: continuous technical and conflict management training.
- Evolution of the program to promote the integration of young people with the workforce: partnerships with patron businesses for the last 5 years who welcome young apprentices and sometimes hire them.

Suggestions for future improvement :

- Improve the premises (library, toilets, computer room)
- Creation of a centre within the city of Fortaleza. For the moment, the centre is in a very tough favela where people (volunteers, businesses ...) don't want to come. Therefore there is a project to open a workshop in the city of Fortaleza in which there would be training for young people, we could speak to them from the centre ... This workshop could also be a shop to present what is made in the workshops and the cooperative.

Summary of factors responsible for the programme’s success :

- Have a very strong and multidisciplinary team
- An educational project that takes into account the range of people's problems. We must be pragmatic and accept that sometimes not much happens, that things don't progress as expected. You have to adapt, take time.
- Diversity of activities: Education through sport and crafts, school and literacy
- Rely on human resources (guardians, sponsors, businesses) that are in a professional situation and pass on strong values.

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