01 June 2007

STOP, Collaborate and Listen

It’s my fourth day in Brazil and what has truly defined my time here is this genuine sense of community the exists between all these changemakers. The Youth Venture model in Breazil works a bit differently than in the United States. Here, we work with partner organizations who identify and support the young leaders within their own framework. Needless to say, that has led to a number of “action pockets;” these places where entire communities of youth have all started their own social ventures and now help each other to maintain them by sharing ideas, collaborating and listening to one another.

This is exactly what the global movement is all about – young people coming together, helping each other and feeling like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. If we can do it here, then I’m sure we can do it at the global level. Youth Venture Brazil (Geracao Muda Mundo) has then worked to connect these pockets and turn them into a vibrant community who truly see themselves in a Brazilian context. From chatting with small groups of ten to twenty to sharing my ideas with one and two hundred people at a time, the youth here began to see the global vision. Just the fact that someone would come all the way from North America to connect with them is the perfect symbol of what this already is, and what it will become in the future.

One of my most memorable encounters – and a prime example of how the movement is growing – came during my site visit to Lua Nova, a center for young women anywhere from twelve to twenty five who are all single moms (yes, a twelve-year-old single mother) either by rape or consent, who have been abandoned by society. Lua Nova takes them in, gives them a home and helps them to start a life by offering school programs, job training and motherhood classes. One of their main programs is encouraging and promoting Youth Venture operations within Lua Nova, and these girls have taken action, helping themselves to help the community.

They’ve started a bakery, where they sell their products in the nearby town to make money for baby formula and diapers.

Another group began producing glass jewelry from old glass bottles that weren’t being properly recycled. Now, not only are they educating the community of garbage disposal, they’ve found a way to generate income for themselves.

A third project is single Moms who are actually building their own homes using organic bricks that they produce on their own. They’re arranged a deal where they build a community of six or seven homes while being paid a modest salary. Then, they move into three of the homes and the others are sold. The income they earn while building goes into furnishing. Once they’re through, they start again in another site.

The fourth and most well-known project is a group of girls who started a doll-making company. They now employ nearly thirty single Moms hand-crafting these fine products, which sell anywhere from $15 to $30 each. There’s a twist, however. The girls are also using the dolls to educate children on sex and child-rearing. An entire line of dolls have been produced that are anatomically complete including models that have babies inside, to explain actual child birth.

As stand alone ventures, they are each incredible for both their scope and impact. What’s even more fascinating is how they’ve come together to support each other’s ventures through their own initiatives. “It gives me something to look forward to, and to be proud of. I am creating something and it’s helping me and the other girls. It just feels nice,” Natalia told me. Let me tell you, they don’t skimp on quality either. The houses, dolls and jewelry were top notch, and the cookies were divine. I ate a whole bag by myself after helping make them!

It’s communities like these that show the type of impact we can have on a global level. If they can do that much in their small town, imagine what we can accomplish when we’re collaborating on a global level! The world’s a changin’. I hope you’ll be along for the ride.

No comments: