Espaço da Criança’s main goal is to provide schooling, food and shelter to children and adolescents living in extreme poverty in the most unprivileged areas of Recife. In the local Espaço da Criança area alone, approximately 78,098 people live in extreme poverty; from those, 38.04% are poor and 19.20% are miserable. Formal work is scarce amidst the local families, many of which have no access to proper schooling or are barely literate, making informal and lowly paid work the sole viable activity for over half of them. As a consequence, unemployment is high, and many have given up searching for jobs and fallen into full dependency of State aid. This lack of social coverage and opportunities leads to a widespread degradation of livelihood and social wellbeing.
Among the victims from this situation, the most vulnerable ones are the children, who are helpless in face of violence, social exclusion, poverty and familial disorders.
Due to the institution’s limitations regarding personnel, space and resources, no more than 100 children can be assisted at once, even though the number of needy children in the community is much larger. Therefore, Espaço da Criança chooses to help those who are in greatest need, who live under the most extreme conditions of poverty and risk. Some of the children, for instance, have no place else to get a daily meal, meaning that they probably endure hunger or eat poorly whenever Espaço da Criança is closed.
Also, many children have had their households completely torn apart by drugs. It’s not rare to find, among them, cases of parents and siblings involved with drug dealing. This serious problem, most common with crack, which is cheap and highly addictive, has dissolved numerous families of the area, as its members end up being either arrested or killed by the police.
As a result, some of the children they assist have no remaining relative to look after them, or are being tossed around among family acquaintances that are not happy about having yet another mouth to feed. Birth defects or disease, such as AIDS and syphilis, due to substance abuse by the mother also occur.
Consequently, these children are left uncared for and subjected to an extremely hazardous environment. This leaves them exposed not only to diseases (some which would be easily treatable), but also to aggression and a sense of abandonment. All of this can scar them for life, compromising any chances they might have to healthfully integrate into society. Espaço da Criança’s main goal has been to provide those children with what should be their natural right: proper nutrition, good education, and a sane and safe environment.
They do it by serving 200 meals a day and giving the children reading, art, dance, music and tutoring lessons, as well as monitoring by a psychologist and a social worker. Therefore, not only does Espaço da Criança provide a physical shelter from the risks that besiege unprivileged children everyday, but it also offers them an environment for the full blossoming of their childhood. With the numerous classes and caring personnel, they place the children in a healthier setting for the growth of their intrapersonal skills, and introduce them to a set of moral values and civic virtues that, in harsh communities such as Coelhos, are often ignored or scorned at.
Although Espaço da Criança has been present and active in the same community for the past 20 years, most of the inhabitants and businesses from the surroundings remain either unaware of its work (and therefore of its importance) or flat out hostile to it (frowning on having kids from the favelas coming to the neighborhood daily). Local partnerships that do occur are sporadic, more due to chance than to a commitment to the continuity of the initiative.
In the surrounding area there are a variety of businesses (schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants, law firms, etc), large in size and scope, that could be incredibly valuable to Espaço da Criança as future partners. Many of them operate on domains highly interrelated to the organisation (health, education, nutrition, child legislation, etc) and could be of great assistance with their expertise and resources. Likewise, Espaço da Criança would be for them a fertile field for implementing and diversifying their practices.
Unfortunately, such bountiful cooperation hasn’t been possible yet, since many of Espaço da Criança’s neighboring businesses have not been properly introduced to the institution and it’s work. They need to raise the level of awareness to the surrounding community regarding Espaço da Criança’s work, hoping that from it more opportunities for partnerships, financial support and volunteering will spring out in a more perennial manner.
More professionals, contacts and resources would multiply their means to care for each child, bringing them closer to the goal of successfully reinserting the children into full citizenship.
Therefore, the TIE project is to develop a communication campaign aimed at increasing the surrounding community’s level of awareness of the importance of Espaço da Criança’s work, by familiarizing them with the actions of Espaço Criança and its importance to society. Ideally, coming out of the campaign, they would like local businesses to start supporting the organisation, rather than being hostile towards it.