The last week of February the entire organization came together for their annual strategic planning session. The week was an opportunity for everyone who works at ABTH to get a sense of each sector's achievements and challenges from previous year. While we at the Mangueirinha office have fairly regular contact with the headquarters in Rio, ABTH has so many different components for such a small organization that it's hard to keep up with everything.
As an organization, Terra dos Homens is divided into three main issue areas:
1. Direct services to children, families and their communities. Programa Raízes Locais is the main project under this issue area, but ABTH has a long history of working directly to reintegrate children and adolescents who have been put in shelters or who are living on the street with their families. I'll discuss PRL's projects in more detail below.
2. Diffusion of ABTH's methodology to other professionals who work with children and families. Members of the ABTH team in the Rio routinely travel throughout Brazil given workshops on ABTH's methodology (previousIly discussed here). The organization also hosts a more in-depth class which Sarah and I will be participating in later in March. During the strategic planning session, I learned that much of ABTH's work in this issue area for 2014 included building partnerships and training employees in various businesses on corporate social responsibility best practices.
3. Defending the rights of children and adolescents through policy advocacy. ABTH works with policymakers at the local and national level to ensure that the rights of children and adolescents are being protected. In Mangueirinha, that has meant being an active participant in the Conselho Municipal de Direitos da Criança e do Adolescente (Municipal Counsel on the Rights of Children and Adolescents) for the municipality of Duque de Caxias. On a national level, ABTH helps to develop policies such as the Plano Nacional pela Primeira Infância (National Plan on Early Childhood).
The strategic planning session was also an opportunity for PRL to reflect on its own programming, which formerly started again last week after summer break. Currently PRL has 4 main issue areas:
1. Psycho-social care for children, adolescents and families. This includes two main programs, the Espaço da Imaginação and a support group for pregnant women, many of whom are young mothers in their teens. The Espaço da Imaginação is like a day care for children aged 2-7. There are just over 30 children who attend the Espaço either during the morning or the afternoon. Sarah is working closely with children from the Espaço on a photography project.
The support group for pregnant women began again last week. Ten to fifteen women are expected to participate in the group which has three main focuses: caring for yourself, caring for your child, and caring for your relationships. This year, Betty, the social worker who facilitates the group, hopes to increase participation among the women's partners.
2. Youth leadership. This issue area includes all of PRL's art and cultural activities, such as graffiti, capoeira, and theater. These activities also have a strong human rights component. For example, Rafaelle and Isabela coordinate the theater group, which will tackle questions related to gender.
3. Political advocacy.This area is less about programming and more about PRL's role in the community of Mangueirinha and the city of Duque de Caxias. It mostly involves, Luciano and Rose's participation with the Conselho Municipal, but also includes PRL's relationship with various public agencies, such as the school system.
4. Community mobilization. Programa Raízes Locais will be focusing on this issue area much more in 2015. With the youth forum entering its second year, everyone is excited to keep the moment going following the group´s successful event on Skateboarding in the community. The group is still talking with the ministries of leisure and sport to help convince a local school to allow skaters to use school grounds on the weekends. While five adolescents within the group continue to work on the issue of skateboard, the other 10 members hope to start working on their next project, which will probably be related to the question of water and access to safe drinking water.
Another reason PRL will be focusing on community mobilization is the start of the women's cooperative Mangarfo. The cooperative will focus on cater for events. PRL recently expanded into a neighboring house in order to build the kitchen that the cooperative will use. The kitchen will also be home to cooking classes for the cooperative. After only 2 meetings, the group is still trying to figure out how the group will be structured, but the women are very excited to begin. The group's first event will be a photo exhibition for the Espaço da Imaginação in later May or early June.
These are the two groups that I work most closely with and I am looking forward to watching them grow over the next 5 months.