Education has always been one of the primary methods of empowering individuals to improve their conditions in life. The United Nations even list it as part of their Millennium Development Goals, aiming to provide universal education by 2015.
Brazil, a rapidly developing country, unfortunately falls short when faced with issues in educational disparities. It’s aiming to provide public and private education for all citizens, yet there is still a large gap between the privileged and the poor. Public schools especially are unable to provide adequate education and ensuring a student’s future with college acceptances. Instead, it is only through more expensive private schools that most Brazilian children can hope to attend a fully funded university. I was shocked to hear that only private school, which costs more than some families can afford, are essentially the only way that students would achieve the test scores necessary to get into higher education programs. Public schools just arenâ€™t good enough.
Community in Action (Comunidade em AÃ§Ã£o) is a non-profit organization located in one of Rio de Janeiroâ€™s most dangerous favelas, Complexo do AlemÃ£o, and aims to partner with local programs to empower its residents by embracing a better life. As part of the Jolkona team visiting South America, it was a wonderful opportunity to visit a non-profit working in the field. While visiting Community in Action, it was easy to see how motivated their founder, Zak Paster, and his team of dedicated volunteers were to improving conditions in the favelas. We also observed some of their current partners, many of them working to improve education opportunities for the children of the favelas.
One of the most inspiring visits was to Centro Educacional Leandro, a school in the favela run by Marcia and Marcelo and an organization that Community in Action is partnered with. Not only does this organization provide private-school education for less, but it also empowers children to help others. Marcia and Marcelo’s passion bleeds through everything they do. For the last twenty years, they have provided integral services to kids in need because of a desire to help their community. During the holiday time, Centro Educacional Leandro spearheaded a food drive, where their underprivileged students went door to door in the favela and received kilos of food from other needy families. It was inspiring to see young people help each other and want to make the community a better place, even during tough times.
Community in Action helps organizations like this one become better equipped to help empower the local community. The students at Centro Educacional Leandro had tiny, cramped schoolrooms and a stuffy computer lab. As an American growing up in the American education system, it is easy to forget how many more resources I had access to that these students do not. With Community in Actionâ€™s support, they can provide a much larger facility for students to learn the computer skills necessary to survive in todayâ€™s global economy.
Watching Community in Action was a unique opportunity to see a grassroots non-profit organization affect real change. Their strong relationship with the local community means they will continue to do good work for years to come.