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Together for a strong action to combat educational poverty

Together for a strong action to combat educational poverty. The "Jardim Margarida" Social Center and the "Maria Menina" SAD program

Andrezinho is an outgoing and smiling child, but he succumbs to the challenges of street life. “I started using drugs when I was little. And if I didn't have any, I would get angry, upset and depressed. Since I started attending the Center in Jardim Margarida, I have slowly found myself, the ability to establish positive relationships with others. A life perspective. I'm 17 today. What I want to do is go to university, devote myself to music. I think the Center really helps fight drug use and save many lives. "

The “Jardim Margarida” Social Center, managed by the Sociedade Movimento dos Focolari (SMF) in collaboration with AFN onlus, is located in the district of the same name in the metropolitan region of São Paulo (Brazil). A deprived area extending along the side of a highway, the Rodovia Bunjiro Nakao which connects Vargem Grande Paulista to Ibiúna, where drug use among adolescents, school dropout and early pregnancies have increased dramatically in recent years, as a consequence of family poverty, unemployment, lack of safe recreational places and alternative activities to school.

“I started using drugs when I was 15 - says António. - I was always walking around and used to drink with other kids. The Jardim Margarida Social Center helped me in personal development and in the relationship with others. The activities supplemented the school lessons, then I was offered the opportunity to work in a company and I had the opportunity to return to the Center as a professional educator. Today I have the opportunity to give back to the people who worked on the project what they did for me. One of the best experiences is when children look at me and tell me I'm the best. Not for the ability to teach or play games, but for understanding them, talking to them and being able to take care of them. Make them feel that they are not alone ».

In Brazil, about 3 million children between the ages of four and seventeen grow up deprived of fundamental rights, such as the right to protection, access to social and health care services, education. They live by expedients, with the risk of being exploited, abused, victims of drug addiction and becoming violent themselves. The SMF social center specializes in children aged 6 to 15 and 15 to 17.

Its pedagogical, cultural and sporting activities are recognized by the state as an integral part of youth social protection policies as a valid tool for combating educational poverty. They develop awareness and responsibility in children through a formation nourished by values ​​that help them not only to protect themselves from dangers, but to reconstruct their personal, family and community history, preventing deviant behavior. Therefore, the work that is carried out offers an important contribution to achieving the objectives of the 2030 Agenda such as that of quality education (Goal 4) and the reduction of inequalities (Goal 10).

The first activities aimed at children, teenagers and families in vulnerable situations carried out by the SMF date back to the mid-1970s. Thanks to AFN's "Maria Menina" distance support program, which started in the 90s, 30 years ago, they have been able to strengthen and further structure themselves. Currently, the Center welcomes an annual average of 200 children and young people of which about a third are beneficiaries of the SAD program, supported by a project team made up of professionals specialized in different areas of expertise as well as a good number of young volunteers: "We are looking for to establish a close dialogue with families, often the key point of many problems. Together with the locals we intervene in various situations of vulnerability, with the aim of promoting the rights of future generations and contributing to the creation of a better world. More united ».

Giovanna Pieroni

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