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Transforming the lives of children and young people in Brazil

Transforming the lives of children and young people in Brazil

I like it here - I like my friends, I like doing my homework, going on the outings with the team and to the project’s celebration events.
(Maria Santos)

Maria is eight years old and has attended Sociedade Irmãos Solidários (SIS) Happy Child project in Salvador City run by the ABC Trust since 2011. Maria is one of Jacele Santos’s five children. With an absent father, the family can only count on Jacele’s meagre unstable job and on the government conditional cash transfer programme. This is not an uncommon story in the Northeast province of Brazil. This region – including the state of Bahia and the city of Salvador where the project is located – is the poorest in the country per capita and also one of the most violent. Salvador had a 47% increase in gun violence since 2002; it is now the ninth most violent state capital in Brazil and the fifteenth most violent city in the world.

In this context, education and prevention are essential in protecting youth such as Maria. Even though access to education has significantly increased in Bahia state in the last two decades for children aged five to six years old – almost one in four children were still not attending school in 2010. In addition, the poorest children rarely have access to school support and it is especially hard for those who have learning difficulties to get the appropriate individual support that they need.

When Maria started attending the project’s activities at four years old, she was a quiet student but really struggled to learn despite all her efforts. Her teacher at SIS noticed Maria’s learning difficulties and gave extra support and attention, but something kept limiting her in her efforts to learn. The teacher realised that Maria was actually forcing her sight during the activities and referred Maria to an ophthalmologist. From the moment Maria started using glasses, her development flourished and her results improved dramatically. After four years, she is now able to write cursively and her literary skills are progressing. This has also affected her behaviour and confidence as she does not hesitate to participate in class anymore, express her opinions and ask questions.

Maria is one of the 150 children who benefited from SIS’s Happy Child this year. Happy Child is an after school project that focuses on building the student’s self-esteem and love for learning, while also helping them develop practical skills. They ensure children learn how to read and write appropriately, improve their interpersonal skills and raise awareness of their rights. SIS also makes sure children are well-nourished and healthy, enabling them to learn more effectively, as well as working with children’s families to support and enhance the children’s development.

The activities children benefit from include: everyday school support to help children better assimilate what they have learnt in school, special educational activities for children aged three to five years old, guided reading for six to 12 years-olds, presentations about themes like road safety, film showings followed by group discussions, advice on hygiene and healthy behaviour for children and their families, education on the Statute of the Child and the Adolescent (the national legislation on Child Protection) and celebration of folklore and civic events.

The results of the project for 2014-2015 are:

  • 63 out of 77 children are now able to read and write appropriately for their age level. In addition, there was a significant improvement in 132 children’s literacy skills.
  • The project emphasised the importance of working with the three to five years-olds on their interpersonal skills and early childhood development, an aim that was achieved for 29 of the 33 children of this age group.
  • The project improved the nutrition and hygiene of 131 children with daily meals, nutritional advice and support, as well as medical check-ups.
  • The eldest students have a greater understanding of their rights and are more aware of the social issues faced by their community, such as drugs, violence and the duties of the state.
  • Overall, SIS provided a safe and entertaining place for all 150 children and stood as a positive reference point in the community in which they work



ABC Trust’s work and support has also reached children in two other Brazilian cities since 2012: AA Criança in Sao Paulo and ISMEP in Recife. These projects contributed to children’s protection by supporting their families and involving their community. In total, these three projects have directly benefited: 606 children and adolescents last year.

In 2012, Aberdeen Asset Management selected the ABC Trust as its first major emerging markets project. Aberdeen value knowledge, learning and skills and try to ensure that the communities in which it operates are able to offer young people those tools and opportunities which are viewed as being key, not only to its business, but to wider social and economic development.

There are many ways people can get involved with ABC Trust’s work in Brazil. Taking into account over 24,000 children are on the streets of Brazil, every year the charity host the Big City Sleep where you can spend a night sleeping under the stars at Spitalfields. Do you think you can handle it? The next one takes place on 15th April 2016.

SIS helps a lot. It helps children who have learning difficulties – it has made a lot of difference for our children. (Jacele, Maria’s mother)

*The names used in this article have been modified to protect individual identities

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