Santana do Deserto is a small city outside of Rio de Janeiro in rural Minas Gerais. Most families work on big farms, in textile factories, or have local government jobs. Young people attend local public schools, but most do not complete secondary education due to the need to work and help support their families. Drug and alcohol abuse is common, as is early pregnancy in adolescent girls. Young people from Santana and neighbouring communities are understimulated, lacking programs that inspire, educate, and offer alternatives to riskier pastimes. Youth have never had any guidance in educational/employability pursuits – their visions of what opportunities are available are very limited (many only have the example of their parents’ education/ careers). 96% of youth do not attend any extracurricular course; 67% of youth have never participated in any volunteer project. Juxtaposing this reality is an interest in the development of cottages, vacation spots, tourism, and cattle ranching for the elite due to the area’s proximity to Rio de Janeiro and Juiz de Fora.
Officially founded in 2004, Onda Solidaria (Onda) has reached over 12,000 beneficiaries since 2000 when its volunteers began. Onda works on three fronts: 1) Culture, Sports and Environment: promoting understanding, healthy living and sustainability through sports, group activities, leadership and cultural exchanges with youth from different countries; 2) Employment and Income: fostering social inclusion and employment, through preparation for the labour market; 3) Citizenship: disseminating the value of solidarity, aimed at bringing citizens together through improved social justice. In 2012, Onda received a donation of 27 acres of land to build an Eco Social Centre & Villa (Vila dos Sonhos) to benefit and empower local, impoverished communities the states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. Its development is a key strategy for Onda with the design of programs in the areas of environmentalism, permaculture, and eco-rural tourism, benefitting the local community. From 2010-2014, Onda had a youth employability program called Transformação in the favelas or Rio (250 youth), over 40% of whom obtained employability and remained employed for 6+ months (those that Onda could locate). This program discontinued once the Eco Villa began as the idea was to eventually adapt and bring this program to the rural communities in Santana. Under this new grant, Onda will consolidate its program and fully adapt and document all modules to the context of Santana, including the new components of gender, permaculture, and English training.
EMpower’s 4th grant to Onda Solidaria will consolidate its Transformaçao program in Santana (core life skills training, gender training, English classes, permaculture/social activities related to eco-tourism, educational and career guidance, employability workshops). Parents and teachers will participate in monthly workshops on specific topics to support youth.
Primary Location: Santana do Deserto
Funded Since: 2014
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