Joaquim Nabuco is a rural town with around 17,000 inhabitants that is located in Pernambuco, a north-eastern region in Brazil, and is 118km away from Recife, the state’s capital city. It was the first independent city to be founded at the end of the 19th century by slaves who had escaped from the sugar cane plantations and obtained their freedom. Its economy is mainly based upon sugar cane plantations, which belong to the big “usineros” which run all the sugar production in the area.
The work revolves around these “usinas”, the sugar processing factories, which, during the harvest for six months every year, employ the majority of the men, women and young people in the area. However, during the remaining six months of the year the number of staff needed drops by 80% and many are left out of work until the next harvest.
This situation can cause extreme poverty and Joaquim Nabuco finds itself faced with countless social problems: many children and teenagers end up on the streets, growing up alongside delinquency, illiteracy, prostitution and drugs, above all on the outskirts. It is in this context of temporary work, lack of health care and difficult social conditions that the Divino Amore nuns began an aid mission in 1991 with the collaboration of Modena Terzo Mondo and the parish of Padre Luigi de Rocco di Belluno.
It was in Joaquim Nabuco in 1992 that Modena Terzo Mondo carried out its first long-distance aid project. Since then there have been different humanitarian aid activities and individual and group training events, which have created very strong relationships between the locals and the Italian volunteers. At the moment Modena Terzo Mondo is primarily supporting the ‘Joaquim Nabuco Youth Foundation for Life’.
Projects in Pernambuco
The Youth House
The young people in Joaquim Nabuco created a foundation called the Joaquim Nabuco Youth Foundation for Life, which is based in the Youth House. It is a place for them to get together and hold meetings and events to help them grow culturally and professionally. The house was bought in August 2004 and renovated shortly afterwards.
The house is equipped with a computer and an Internet connection so that all the young people can learn how to use technology to search for jobs or maintain email contact with far-off friends and family.
Anyone who has a talent or a skill (such as painting, dance, theatre,…) or knows a profession (such as carpentry, dressmaking, first aid,…), whether they are an Italian volunteer or a local, can teach it in workshops to those who have no opportunity to attend other courses due to a lack of money. Nowadays there are around 450 children who participate in the house’s activities.
The house contains books, videos and a television for those who don’t have them at home. Little by little furniture has also been installed, to enable Italian volunteers to stay there when they come to Joaquim Nabuco. The running of the house is left entirely up to the Joaquim Nabuco Youth Foundation for Life.
The Joaquim Nabuco Youth Foundation for Life’s Projects
The activities that are taking place or have previously taken place in the house, thanks to the collaboration of young volunteer teachers from Joaquim Nabuco, are as follows:
- Information Technology School With the aim of providing professional preparation for teenagers, young people and adults and of fulfilling their expectations, it sets out to teach them how to use a computer, its main programs, the keyboard, all of it functions, Microsoft programs such as Word and the Internet.
- Football School Out of all the projects here this has the highest number of children signed up, 250 to be precise, and it runs in the morning and afternoon from Monday to Wednesday, training and developing the boys’ physical capabilities. Once a month they hold friendly matches in nearby towns and three times a year there is a tournament within the school to encourage integration and social inclusion.
- Drama Project The drama project aims to develop and transform the individuals’ attitudes towards the world around them and their own skills. The idea of teaching drama is to build a creative and energetic outlook towards all their own faculties such as imagination, the five senses and memory. Drama is a fun and absorbing hobby and therefore it becomes a good alternative form of education.
- Dance School For the Brazilians, dance is not used as a means of earning money, but instead as a way of discovering one’s own body. It is a fun physical activity and the Dance School is open to all young people, teenagers and children.
- Painting, Guitar, Handball, Volleyball and Circus Tricks SchoolThe aim is to develop the teenagers’ and children’s creativity and physical abilities.
- The Social Centre The Social Centre is a place for the local families to meet and discuss the main issues that affect them and to learn about aspects of home economics, like dressmaking for example. But above all it is a place where the women’s self-esteem can grow. The things they learn and practise are undeniably practical and offer them more work opportunities and furthermore, attending the centre is often the women’s only chance to socialise with other people. It is also therefore a way to create a friendship and support network for women who often live in isolated conditions. Among the various topics dealt with by the women are: personal hygiene, healthy nutrition and sexual education. The Jatoba Project is set in this context, thanks to three Italian volunteers, and it is based on the production of local crafts to be sold in Italy. At the moment there are 14 mothers in the house who benefit from the project.
- The Protection Council The Protection Council is made up of five people who act as community social workers. They intervene whenever they receive reports of cases of domestic violence, drug abuse or attacks on women and children. The Council’s existence is vital for the very weakest people in society, as they often succumb to acts of violence. The Council is available 24/7, 365 days a year.
In May 2004 Modena Terzo Mondo donated a car to the Council to allow them to intervene as soon as they hear about an incident and travel to remote places which are unreachable on foot or by bicycle.
Over Christmas the Council gave a present to all the native families of Joaquim Nabuco, consisting of a basket containing food, essential items and a small gift for the children, through the ‘People’s Christmas’ project. This gave everyone a festive atmosphere and the impression that it was special day to be celebrated. Modena Terzo Mondo funded part of the baskets.
- to take children and teenagers off the streets and prepare them for adult life.
- to aid integration and social inclusion through culture, sport and hobbies.