Project gains revitalization in the largest community in Brazil

South American Division

Project gains revitalization in the largest community in Brazil

Social project of over a decade annually serves nearly 200 youth

Human Interest | Brazil | Fabiana Lopes

The idea of ​​graffitiing the Comunitá-Rio project, located in Rocinha (Brazil) since 2010, came up last year, but due to the pandemic, Gabriela Alves Marques and Harrison Marques, the organizers, had to wait to get the idea off of paper and make the project more colorful.

The artist of the project is the graffiti artist Henrique de Souza Melo, 31 years old, born in São Paulo, who has lived in Rio for six years and has been in the profession for 10. 

“I love what I do and I believe that the result in the project was very good,” Melo points out. He says that while he was painting, children approached asking questions and wanting to help paint. 

“Certainly, the whole experience will be a memorable one in their lives,” he says. “Graffiti changes everyday life and brings about social transformation, as it draws the attention of children whose minds are still developing. This was one of the biggest projects I painted, I was very happy with the result and I hope I fulfilled the vision well.”

For Gabriela Alves Marques, Melo’s art met all expectations, representing various brands and initiatives. 

“The Adventist Church, the project, the Brazilian flag, the Christ the Redeemer statue, which is a magnificent symbol of our city, all are included,” she ponders. “From the beginning, we wanted to put the image of Christ the Redeemer on the façade. Henrique brought life and joy to the community with the color of his art. Colors bring life. The idea was for the children to arrive and feel joy for being in such a beautiful place and feel proud to be there to learn.” 

Rocinha is the largest community in Brazil and is home to more than 100,000 people living in poverty. The site appeared in the middle of 1927 during the construction of buildings in neighborhoods in the south, such as Copacabana and other tourist spots in the Marvelous City.

Lack of opportunity can be overcome in Rocinha through community projects that encourage culture, art, and leisure among children, youth, and adults. Comunitá-Rio has existed for 11 years and offers several workshops: choir, flute, guitar, Libras (Brazilian sign language), and more. 

13-year-old Aline Victória Alves Pereira’s family has already seen three generations go through the project. She was a student and today is a volunteer teaching flute, choral singing, Libras, and helps at the Clube de Desbravadores. Her brother, Kauê Alves Fernandes, age 7, also participates in the project in choral singing, flute, and Libras classes. She learned about the initiative through her aunt, Tatiana Silva Alves, who as a child also took classes at Comunitá-Rio.

Aline says she decided to become a teacher due to the project's influence.

"Before I had no idea what I wanted for life; now I have a clear certainty of my future." says the girl, who believes that the project can influence other lives. “Certainly, children can gain a different way of looking at things.”

Patrícia Viana has been a volunteer since 2001, even before the project appeared in Rocinha. Today she is a volunteer teaching Libras and flute, and is a secretary at Comunitá-Rio. She is in the second semester of pedagogy and says this experience has given her a clear path in life.

“Comunitá-Rio changed my life for the better, gave me a different perspective on life, taught me to help others, and helped me choose the profession I want to follow,” she says. “Today I go to Pedagogy College because I love teaching the children of the project. That was how the desire was born in my heart to be a teacher.” 

Viana highlights the joy that has to be part of children's lives. 

“I grew up as part of the project, and it is gratifying to know that back there I was a student, I had the privilege of learning, and today I can pass on to children what I once learned,” she concludes.

The building where the Comunitá-Rio project operates also hosts weekly Seventh-day Adventist Church services on Saturday morning, Tuesday, and Sunday night. On Saturday afternoon, the children of the Clube de Desbravadores Comunitá-Rio develop activities every week, and due to the pandemic, meetings on Sunday afternoon take place every two weeks.

Among the project's workshops is choral singing, a class that has helped children and teenagers in the midst of the pandemic. 

“Music plays a vital role in human development, be it in the religious, moral, or social aspect, in addition to being useful in different health treatments,” says Gabriela. “In children, music can stimulate communication, allowing direct contact with dialogue and interaction, which is why it is considered the language of affectivity, being able to contribute to growth as a human and professional, whatever the area.”

Andrea Leda de Sá has a 12-year-old daughter, Alice Leda de Sá Fernandes, who has lost the use of her left eye. 

“Comunitá-Rio came into our lives making a difference with attention and love,” says de Sá. “I am very grateful to God for putting Aunt Gabriela in our lives. I see the difference between my daughter and children of the same age who do not have this opportunity.”

Alice takes classes in choral singing, Libras, guitar, and flute, and participates in the Clube de Desbravadores. According to her mother, Alice is “in love with Aunt Gabriela.”