Students from California's Soku University went to Medina, Brazil, in January 2013 to meet Brazilian teens who are involved in the Photovoice photography workshop.
Brazil has one of the richest and most vibrant cultures in South America, but life is hard for many Brazilian families. With more than a quarter of the country's population of 196 million living in poverty, many families lack reliable sources of food and health care, and children often turn to a life of crime to escape the hardships of everyday life. However, artistic expression is giving youth who live in some of Brazil's poorest communities a chance to raise awareness of their struggles and inspire hope among families living in the country's most disadvantaged areas.
Life Through a Lens
One of ChildFund's objectives in Brazil is helping children in need see their communities in a different way. Although life can be difficult for many Brazilian families, particularly those living in urban slums known as favelas, some children and youth are learning to express themselves creatively through photography. ChildFund and local partner organization Conselho de Pais Criança Feliz began offering classes in photography through the Photovoice project. This initiative aims to bring children and youth together from some of Brazil's poorest neighborhoods and help them connect with one another and their communities in a meaningful way. The project also visually documents some of the struggles families face, which is important for widespread awareness of these conditions.
"In Photovoice, I learned many things, and I had a lot of fun with the teacher, Jorginho," says Marlon, a 10-year-old boy who is a member. "The photography classes helped me figure out who I want to be in the future, to make new friends and to have a better understanding of photography."
Bringing Color to the Favelas
Art can do much more than just help children see their world differently. It can also inspire hope and bring light to areas where rates of poverty are high.
Marcos Rodrigo Neves grew up in Rocinha, one of the largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro. He began spray-painting graffiti in his neighborhood as a teenager to express his dissatisfaction with life in the slums. His natural artistic talent soon started to attract a large following, particularly among his peers. Neves says that art kept him away from drugs and crime, and today he teaches local youths how to create their own murals, and is one of Brazil's fastest-rising artistic talents.
Recently, Neves landed a commission to display four murals at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference. His work has garnered great interest from the wider artistic community and has brought attention to conditions and life in the favelas. Many of the youths in Rocinha see Neves as a role model.
Neves isn't the only artist whose canvas is the formerly bleak stone walls of Brazil's slums. Dre Urhahn and Jeroen Koolhaas, two artists from the Netherlands who visited Brazil to shoot hip-hop music videos, created the Favela Painting Project in 2010 after spending time in Santa Marta in southern Rio de Janeiro. Through this project, the artists and the local youths raise awareness about the plight of Brazilian families and children in need.
"We wanted to do something that would give them an opportunity to become painters and that would call attention to the outside world to their situation," Urhahn told CNN.
ChildFund's Photovoice program and other artistic initiatives are bringing hope to the children of Brazil's favelas, but we couldn't implement projects like this without the support of our donors. To help us reach out to vulnerable children in the world's poorest countries, please consider sponsoring a child or becoming a monthly giving partner.