Having moved from Europe and lived here for the last year with my two small sons, there is a lot that we are enjoying…. the natural beauty, the endless beaches, the friendliness, the slower pace of life with a sense of safety unimaginable in Rio de Janeiro or other cities of Brazil.
For all the day-to-day frustrations and the minor and major cultural clashes, I feel lucky to be here. Part of the peace I feel being here, is the sense that apart from enjoying the benefits of Florianopolis, I am also contributing to making Grande Florianopolis a slightly more just and humane place. Florianopolis embraced us and we are embracing it back!
Since arriving here, I have been busy working voluntarily with a mosaic of Brazilian and international people to set up Saúde Criança Recontar. Saúde Criança Recontar is a nonprofit organization, which supports families whose children have chronic illness to pull themselves out of extreme poverty and improve their children´s life chances. We work with the Joana de Gusmão hospital, whose Director and social worker are on our Board of Trustees.
The methodology we used has been used effectively with over 10,000 families in Brazil and was pioneered by a carioca doctor called Vera Cordeiro. She has been recognized by the Skoll Foundation, Ashoka and other international bodies as being an innovative and effective methodology to help the very poor transform their life situations.
We work with the families for two years and develop and implement a family action plan with them, which has targets and responsibilities for the families and the organization in the areas of health, education, income, housing and citizenship.
Take the case of Paolo, one of the first children to enter. He is 3 years old and has HIV. His mother and father, both HIV positive, were both ill with bronchitis, due to living in a damp basement. The mother had low self-esteem and a sense of hopelessness, the father lost his job and was in hospital when they first entered the program. In the six months they have been in the program, their lives have turned around. The mother has become very involved with the craft-work project and has learned to make key-rings, carpets, Christmas decorations and is now selling second hand clothes in our weekly brechó. Her self-esteem has changed dramatically and she now tells us that she has no reason to be unhappy. She has moved to a drier, larger house with a yard for the children, paying for the moving van with money she earned in the craft-work project, her husband is now working formally. Her son´s viral count is better than before and her health has stabilized. The impact of the program is visible.
Having spent nearly four years in Rio de Janeiro as well, what I have encountered in Brazil is a sense of hesitancy in supporting nonprofit organizations, everyone citing corruption and financial mismanagement.
At Saúde Criança Recontar. when people support the organization, many provide food donations or clothes or toys. This immediate support is necessary, but if the organization is to go beyond charity and help the families to transform their lives, we need to provide the families with psychological support, social assistance, opportunities to generate income, housing improvements and legal support.
We have put in place a strong and transparent financial system, with tri-monthly meetings of the fiscal board. We plan annual external audits to demonstrate our financial competence and correctness. In addition, we have a set of impact indicators that we are tracking to be able to demonstrate the impact the program is having and identify where we need to improve what we are doing.
We now have a small group of people who have become PADRINHOS, donating 100 or 50 reais (or any other amount) a month to support a particular family. They receive information every three months on how the family is doing. This support enables us to pay modest salaries to the social worker, housing coordinator, artisan who trains the mothers and an administrative and financial coordinator.
If you are interested in becoming a PADRINHO or volunteering in a local organization that has been well set-up and is being well-run, using a proven methodology and offering lots of opportunities to volunteer with a friendly and effective mix of Brazilians and internationals, please contact me at email@example.com.
I would be delighted to present the organization to you and talk about how you too can embrace Florianopolis and help some of the most excluded children in Grande Florianopolis to have a better chance of health and wellbeing.