A WORD FROM THE FOUNDERS:
WORKING WITH CHILDREN...
In 2006, when we decided to open a charitable organization in Brazil, it was not difficult to choose the area.
Everyone knows the painful reality in which live the many children dwelling in the outskirts of the large Brazilian cities: poverty, lack of any type of resources, highly exposed to drugs and criminality.
AN "AFTER SCHOOL" PROGRAM...
The first idea that came up was to implement something simple, connected to the activities performed by children "after school": something that would be relatively simple to develop and maintain.
We opted for an “after school” program, basically seeking to remove the socially vulnerable children from the streets, where they usually play but at the same time are exposed to the dangers of drugs and criminality.
“A child facing social vulnerability" is a euphemism created over the last years to typify a child living in deficient housing, sanitary and safety conditions (typically in slums). Most often this child lives together with many brothers and sisters, is raised and supported only by the mother or another relative, and is invariably subject to psychological and in some cases even physical abuse.
The inspiration for the name of the after-school-program we created - “Youth, You Can Do It!” – came from the social movements developed by Mexican immigrant farm workers of the State of California, where we live. In California people attributed the motto "Sí, se puede!" (Yes, you Can!) to social activist César Chavez, who for many years fought to improve field workers conditions.
As we have personally confirmed, even the poorest Latin immigrant here in California has a level of awareness according to which they CAN leave the penury in which they live and succeed in life. So, the motto "Sí, se puede!" has already been absorbed, both by the globalized world and modern society.
The issue of the immigrants’ difficulty in settling into the new country they chose and do well is historic and universal. In Brazil we have dozens of examples, among which I especially point out the Italian immigrants, from which my family came from, and the Japanese immigrants, from which my wife’s family came from. We are "creations" of these two movements, the first initiated in 1875, and the second in 1908.
On its turn, the episode of the northeastern migration to the great southeastern urban centers (São Paulo, Brasília and Rio de Janeiro) could be observed especially from the 50’s and 60’s on.
Unfortunately, in Brazil, whether explicitly or implicitly, the message of resignation before life is deeply rooted in society.
This reminds me of a personal story that I would like to tell you now.
A SHATTERED DREAM...
I was raised in the outskirts of São Paulo, in a middle-class family. When I was 15, I decided to start attending high school evening classes and get a full-time job, as my older sisters and brother had done when they were my age. So, I began to work as an office-boy and go to school in the evenings.
My dream was to go the São Paulo University (USP – local acronym for Universidade de São Paulo – one of the best in Brazil), and when I was 16, attending the third year of high school, I remember I told this dream to my chemistry teacher (who by the way was a graduate of USP....). When she heard my words, she answered: - "You? But you come from the outskirts and have evening classes! You don’t stand a chance of getting into USP!”
That answer made "my world fell apart", and my eyes immediately filled with tears. My motivation to keep studying and even complete high school was seriously damaged.
In the context I lived, attending evening high school in an outskirt school, in which most students (between 18 and 22, all of them coming from poor families) were considered negligent, it would only be "natural" to accept that one could not dream of one day getting into USP. That was something for rich family kids.
The end of this story is that I eventually got into USP the following year and, amazingly, during my first week of classes I met the same chemistry teacher on the circular bus that serves students and employees. We only exchanged a glance. Years later I graduated in Computer Science. I went to the job market, found good jobs and succeeded professionally.
THE VALUE OF A STABLE FAMILY...
We often hear from Cuore children comments like "my grandmother was born in this poverty, my mother too, I am also in this situation and will surely end my days the same way.”
My discouragement in the weeks following that of the answer given by my chemistry teacher was great, but somehow I found strength to recollect myself, and I felt even more invigorated than I was before.
Today I understand that the decisive factor in all that was the fact that I had "family support,” or a "stable home.”
When you have alcoholic or drug-dependent parents, when you do not have food every day, when your household is under the minimum housing standards (houses sometimes without a bathroom, or with only one room for an 8-person family), when you are often subject to violence within the family, many times being beaten as part of the routine, it is difficult to react.
THE PROJECT “YOUTH, YOU CAN DO IT!”
Cuore works to restore children’s self-esteem, first offering basic resources such as:
- Meals: the children stay from 4 to 5 hours at Cuore, ("after-school period") where they have breakfast and lunch (kids enrolled for the morning period), or lunch and afternoon snack (kids enrolled for the afternoon period).
- Hygiene: the basic hygiene rules are worked daily with the children. Those who have no bathroom and/or shower at home take their daily bath at Cuore’s facilities.
- Health care and oral health care: Cuore works jointly with the health agencies available at Jardim Umarizal district to help provide this assistance.
After working the children’s basic HEALTH, other activities are offered, such as music, information technology and supplementary teaching.
The professional qualification is especially addressed by building the awareness that school and studies, in different levels, are crucial to fulfill personal dreams.
The message that remains for children at Cuore is: “youth, regardless of which social, racial or intellectual group you belong to, YOU CAN study and achieve professional success in life. You will be able to have your own house and family in the future, and be financially independent.”
BUT ARE JUST FINANCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS ENOUGH?
For us, to build Cuore and be able to dream of and work on planning a worthy and successful future for socially vulnerable children is a special privilege.
But none of this would have sense to us if the spiritual aspect were not addressed. To build an institution based only on the values of man or society would not make any sense to us.
We must answer the questions: “Why were we created?” and “What is our purpose of life”?
Cuore is a Christian institution. We have no denomination, we serve under no label. The values adopted by Cuore and all its employees are those that were taught by Jesus Christ.
These values are implemented daily with the children through readings and singings, especially by the words used by the employees, by their examples of life and by the actions they perform. All this has to be in line with the values taught by Jesus Christ.
We frequently notice non-Christian people facing social vulnerability (mostly adults) who rebel against life because of their situation and ask themselves: "Why was I born in this situation? Why do I have to go through this?" Many other negative and rebelling questions are incorporated into the existence of these people and also passed on to their children.
A disciple of Jesus Christ even if not achieving the success-oriented values (typically financial values) worshipped by society is happy and has a plentiful life.
The great Brazilian philosopher Humberto Rohden wrote:
The existential frustration man is always unhappy, even enjoying social success.
The existential fulfillment man is always happy, even without enjoying social success.
Our goal is to cause our children not only to reach this plentiful life through the teachings of Jesus Christ, but also to strive to achieve their socioeconomic success.
Come join this crusade with us! We count upon your participation in this project.
Daniel Dalarossa and Elza Harumi Kazawa Dalarossa