Like many community-based projects, PRL started with a clear objective that ultimately had adjust to the realities of the local community and its needs. In 2008, ABTH and UNIGRANRIO (a private university with campuses throughout the state of Rio de Janeiro), through funding from the Bernard Van Leer Association, conducted research on street children living and working in the center of Rio de Janeiro. Many of the street children (or rather, as they say in Portuguese, "children on the streets" or "in the situation of living in the streets" --"crianças em situação de rua" -- in order to highlight that living on the streets is neither a permanent condition nor inherent identity) that the ABTH team interviewed came from Mangueirinha, a favela outside of Duque de Caxias. Violence within their homes and communities was a contributing factor to their decision to leave home.
ABTH decided to use the study to develop a community-based reintegration project in Mangueirinha. ABTH already had a history of successful programs aimed at the reintegration of street children, and in 2007, the organization had spent 6 months in a favela in Vigário Geral offering jewelry-making workshops as a form of income generation for the local community.
ABTH came to realize that prevention, rather than reintegration, would better attend to the needs of the community. Although many children from Mangueirinha did end up living in the streets, problems like intra-familiar and gang violence as well as adolescent pregnancies and single parent homes, which often propel children into homelessness, were prevalent throughout the community. The ABTH team decided to rent a modest house within Mangueirinha and began a variety of programs aimed at treating the family as a unit with its own capacities for change. The ABTH selected 20 families for their initial intervention, which included home visits for psychosocial care and family planning for adolescents.
The flexibility of ABTH allowed the organization to modify and develop its goals and methodologies in order to attend to the needs of the community. After its first year and a half, ABTH felt better able to expand its services to more direct programming for children, such as theater productions and graffiti workshops. With this expansion Programa Raízes Locais was born.
Through partnerships with BVL and other donors like Kinder Not Hilfe, the program was better able to articulate its main areas of intervention that continue into the present day: Psychosocial Care, Youth Activism, Income Generation, and Community Mobilization. I will discuss these areas in more detail in future posts as I continue to interview key actors in PRL's path toward a sustainable community-based program.