Brazil – Fortaleza Projects
In Fortaleza: Our work in Fortaleza falls into three categories – church renovation, improvement of quality of life in the urban ghetto of Pirambu, and growth and support of a life – and community – changing educational program called PRECE – Heart of Students Educational Program. The particular work of each trip is determined by the needs expressed by our mission partners in Fortaleza.
ROW Brazil, Fortaleza partners with some outstanding faith based educational programs in and around Fortaleza, Ceara Brazil. Fortaleza is the capital of Ceara, with a population of 2.5 million people, 80% of whom live well below the poverty level. Having led eight mission trips to this area, I will use this document to highlight 4 of the major needs for which ROW is currently raising funds.
1. Pirambu is an urban ghetto in the city of Fortaleza, capital of Ceara, Brazil. Pirambu is riddled with crime, drugs, and unemployment. The streets are filled with children – children who still believe there is hope for a brighter future.
The Life of Christ School in Pirambu sits predominantly next to the Presbyterian Church of Pirambu. Beginning in 2004 First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, The Presbytery of East Iowa, and the Presbyterian Women’s Birthday Offering combined resources to build this school. The school building serves four purposes:
- A before and after school program for elementary school children providing tutoring, Bible stories, and nutritious snacks
- A PRECE campus for teenagers and young adults returning to study to complete a high school degree and for high school graduates to study for the vestibular exam to gain acceptance into the university
- Job training for electricians and computer skills
- Cottage industry for women of sewing on industrial sewing machines
The Life of Christ School has been offered an incredible opportunity, but it is dependent on the school being expanded and improved. Compassion International, one of the leading Christian non-profits in the world which focuses on children, has offered a partnership with the school in Pirambu. This would mean a highly improved quality of program that would follow children all the way through college, as long as they stay in school. Compassion has four main goals for their students:
- Christian life
- Responsible citizens
- Community leaders
- Ethical values
Compassion would give the school $18 per month per student to help cover materials and a hot meal every day. They expect quality teachers and a social worker that monitors the families regularly. Family income for qualifying students can not exceed ½ of minimum wage in Brazil (which is $200 per month per member of the family). An accountant would be hired to track all income and expenses of the school. An excellent leadership program is provided for the teens and college students, thus offering the citizens of Pirambu the chance to become leaders in the community and help to lift up the entire community over time.
There are several physical changes in the school which must be completed for the partnership to occur.
- Compassion wants a capacity of 150 students, and the school only has capacity for 100 presently. This means the addition of a large classroom upstairs.
- A bathroom must be added upstairs.
- Downstairs bathrooms must be renovated, including the addition of child size toilets since the program will start with 3 year olds.
- The kitchen must be renovated for meal preparation for 150.
- A small play area will be provided.
These are minimal physical changes with a very minimal cost for the long term effects that such a quality program can provide. The partnership has been approved by Compassion International if the money can be raised to prove the physical changes will be made.
The total cost for the expansion has been quoted as $31,620 but there are several line items not yet quoted. Therefore, I estimate that the total will be a minimum of $35,000. There are two families who participated in our Brazil mission trip this summer who are each considering contributing up to $10,000. That decision will be made soon. We are requesting $15,000 which would enable the Compassion partnership to begin in January, 2008 which is the target start date.
2. PRECE – Heart of the Student Institute, is a phenomenal faith based educational program founded by Dr. Manoel Andrade Neto, a chemistry professor at the Federal University of Ceara. PRECE was started in 1994 with 7 students who had a dream of finishing their high school education. It began in Cipo, a small rural community 70 miles outside of Fortaleza, the capital of Ceara. When PRECE began in 1994, there was neither electricity nor usable, clean water on Andrade’s parents land where the students began their studies. There were also no available teachers, which is how the school developed its successful method of learning through cell groups. Basically, it is mutual education with each student sharing their subject of strength with the others until they all reach a level of proficiency. It is referred to as learning through cooperative cells.
The students of PRECE have accomplished such remarkable success that the program has grown in numbers and scope. There are currently 13 campuses of PRECE with around 2000 students involved. There are over 150 students who have completed PRECE and gained acceptance into the federal university. The typical acceptance rate from public schools into the university is approximately 4%, with PRECE’s acceptance rate approaching 20%! Because of this success, the substandard public schools in the rural communities where PRECE campuses exist have begun to partner with PRECE students and graduates to receive assistance and support with teachers and students in their own schools. This opportunity provides PRECE the possibility of transforming the public school system, thus making a quality education available to large numbers of urban and rural poor in the years and generations to come.
Economic development is the newest branch of the PRECE program. As students are graduating from the University, they desire to return to their rural communities and help to strengthen their town’s education system and economic base. However, job opportunities are almost non-existent in these communities; therefore, returning home is not practical economically. In order to return to their hometowns, the graduates need financial support and guidance in developing small businesses and ways to become self-sufficient. Four small business projects with great potential have been identified:
- Garbage treatment and recycling: Since the government is not providing adequate trash removal, a market exists for a company that can collect, treat and recycle trash. Chemistry graduates have recognized efficient treatment processes as well as many practical uses for plastics such as two liter bottles being made into furniture and toys.
- Manufacturing Cleaning Supplies: Raw materials and chemistry expertise provide the elements to develop soaps and detergents that are in great demand in the area.
- Eco & Social Tourism: This new trend in tourism is becoming popular around the world. Since tourism is the primary industry of Fortaleza, PRECE sees the opportunity to take advantage of this market by adding Eco & Social Tourism. Students proficient in several languages provide a diversity of tour guides for European and American tourists and offer a personal view into small town life in the interior of Brazil.
- Agronomy Consultants: Presently, farming is the primary way to make a living in these rural communities. Many PRECE students are majoring in agronomy and plan to return to their hometowns and consult with farmers for a modest fee about methods that will increase the yield and income of surrounding farmers. PRECE already owns some small model farms and a cooperative market is envisioned to help the farmers increase the sale of produce and leverage their buying power.
Each of these small business projects has been identified with good potential for the area. Graduate students are ready to develop the business plans along with undergraduate students to assist them. Scholarships would allow them to concentrate their time to develop the businesses in four steps:
- Assign two students with pertinent skills & training to each project (one graduate student and one undergraduate)
- Market Research—the students will assess the market for the business and research models of best practices worldwide
- Business Plans: detailed plans will be developed with the help of American and Brazilian business mentors
- Financial Models: when the financial models have been developed, then start-up capital or loans will be sought to develop the full potential of the business
These small business start-ups will then be the model for future PRECE students who are in the University. All the students will be encouraged to develop plans over the span of their education to enable them to create or join a business full-time upon graduation. With 14 present graduates from the University and 148 currently enrolled as undergraduates, the need for this economic development is urgent. The final goal of PRECE will only be achieved by sending the students back to these rural villages. This is only feasible if they have a viable means of providing for their families. The need and timing are urgent.
We are seeking scholarships for one year for graduate and undergraduate students to develop each of the four business plans.
Graduate students $350/month $4200/year
Undergraduate students $150/month $1800/year
Total for each business: $6000/year
Total for all four business start-ups: $24,000
Business consultants from churches and universities will partner with each pair of students. Goals and benchmarks will be set and monitored by Dr. Neto as well as these business partners with the goal to have a realistic plan ready to execute within one year.
3. Boa Vista campus of PRECE – José Alfredo is a son of a small farmer in Boa Vista, Pentecoste. He dropped out of school when he was 14 because he had to help his parents in the farm. He married a girl from his community and they have eight children. When he was 37, he begun to study in our program with two of his daughters, Diana and Luciana.
José Alfredo and his daughters finished their basic education through the GED program and they have all passed the entrance examinations for the Federal University of Ceará. Now he is studying Agronomy. One of the daughters is studying Geography, and one is majoring in Food Technology. They have organized a Popular Cooperative School in their community. The School today has about 50 students, including four of Jose Alfredo´s children. Currently this school has 11 university students including Jose Alfredo and his daughters and they are returning every weekend to teach in the program as volunteers. Alfredo is teaching these 50 students in a makeshift pavilion in his backyard comprised of poles and coconut branches and leaves. PRECE needs to build a school in Boa Vista, and for only $7000 you can construct an entire school building to meet the needs of this town. ROW is requesting that full amount for this project.
4. Ombreira campus of PRECE – This campus of PRECE reaches out to children as well as teens and young adults. They sponsor a soccer team to reach children, and then tutor them and encourage them with their studies. There will also be an English school starting at this campus at the beginning of 2008. The school building in Ombreira is only partially completed. ROW is requesting $5000 to complete the building, buy a computer and some simple children’s toys and supplies.