ASSOCIAÇÃO COMUNITÁRIA MONTE AZUL
Monte Azul Community Association
21 YEARS - October 2000
In everybody’s life, the 21st birthday is an important milestone. We are still so young but entering adulthood and becoming responsible for our acts. A non-governmental organization (NGO) goes through many phases, which are often similar to the development of people.
Founded in 1979, the Associação Comunitária Monte Azul (Monte Azul Community Association) also experienced its "gestation" period: since 1975 Ute Craemer had been occupied in helping the children of the Monte Azul slum.
The opening of the first Nursery, of the Kindergarten, the Youth Center, the carpentry and the infirmary, all built of wood, were like the first steps taken by a child learning to walk.
The first years were of great fulfillment. The Association, born in the Monte Azul slum, was very poor, but possessed many hidden treasures. It was lucky to find some godparents, who fell in love with it and helped out with ideas, work and financial support.
In 1983 Monte Azul gained siblings – that year the work started to spread out to the neighboring slum of Peinha, and to what was then called Chácara Horizonte Azul, in the southern part of São Paulo.
When a child starts to change baby teeth for permanent teeth, the latter will remain the same for the rest of their lives. The child becomes more independent from its parents, and wants to study, while its body and soul become more organized. In 1985, the educational and health areas of the Association were transformed into professional services. The collaborators started to study together, holding regular meetings, and this commitment with the whole social work still remains alive today during the weekly meetings of all co-workers.
In 1991 we entered adolescence, improving the skills already attained and creating new activities. From the beginning the artistic work was an intrinsic part of our activities. It had always been an essential contribution to the development of people and became more intense after the construction of the Monte Azul Cultural Center, which allowed the extension of our activities to neighboring districts.
Like adolescents, the Monte Azul, Peinha and Horizonte Azul centers needed to be more independent. Working Groups were formed in each center and it was decided that monthly meetings would be held to maintain the integration of the three centers.
In order to keep the desired quality in line with growth, it also became necessary to strengthen the skills of workers and youngsters who had already completed the "basic education". The foundation of the Social Workshop School in 1997 represented a platform towards a "higher level of education".
Today, after 21 years, our work depends even more on people capable of disseminating the core ideals of Monte Azul to other social projects as well as strengthening the Association itself.
We celebrate these 21 years with joy and humble pride. When we look back to the seeds that were then planted in those children, who now are young adults, we recall the crises and obstacles we overcame but which at that time were challenges that could have diverted us from building the bridges that today link people of different social classes and even different countries.
We are entering adulthood prepared for globalization – it is an impulse beyond the economic concept – to allow the flourishing of world citizens competent to mold their own fate with freedom.
WHERE WE WORK
The Monte Azul slum is located in the district of Campo Limpo. Its 3,500 inhabitants came from different Brazilian States, and live in 480 shacks, most of them built by their owners with bricks. In the central square of the slum there is a well, the workshops, a bakery and the nurseries and these give the place an air of a village where all the people know and greet each other.
Peinha exists since 1960 and is located on a hill in Jardim Santo Antônio. Framed by the Pinheiros River and Avenue João Dias, its neighbors are the Centro Empresarial de São Paulo and the Burle Marx Park. Most of its inhabitants are migrants from the rural zones of Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Bahia and Alagoas. 85% of the 446 families live in self-built brick houses, but the remaining 25% live in wood shacks built in risk areas. In 1997, 80 families moved to the Cingapura residential buildings.
Jardim Horizonte Azul is located on the rim of the Guarapiranga dam and has been developing over the last 15 years. In a primitive rural area, surrounded by small land-holders and an abundant green area, several shacks and slums and clandestine farms. Very slowly, the city has been providing them with a minimal infrastructure services such as water, electricity, paved roads and a few bus lines.
"Our greatest commitment must be with to development of free human beings, capable of giving meaning and direction to their own lives". R. Steiner
NURSERIES AND PLAYSCHOOLS
We offer the children an environment that stimulates them to play, since playing for a child is as important and serious as working is for the adult. All the positive experiences of the children in that stage enable them to achieve greater harmony in future life. Pleasant rooms, filled with colors, sounds and natural materials show the child a beautiful world. Coherence and firmness from the educators strengthen the image of a dependable human being.
To teach how to read and write is not only a teaching technique: it is the awakening of the child’s interest in knowledge, culture and development.
The pedagogic work here is prepared to give the children a space where they are able to develop their moral and aesthetic senses, as well as willpower and creativity. The Brazilian environment and culture are enhanced through the adoption of historical themes such as the indigenous and the Afro-Brazilian influences, environment analysis and the slum itself. In a close contact with nature, hiking and excursions stimulate the recognition and respect for life. As a result of this process, there is a low rate of failures and school evasion and a more productive use of after-school time.
VOCATIONAL TRAINING AND WORKSHOPS
We develop workshops aiming at stimulating the adolescents to become interested in creative skills and in the Brazilian and world cultural values. We teach the basic skills of carpentry, paper recycling, furniture remodeling, making dolls and toys, baking, weaving, gardening, information systems and electricity. In this stage we help adolescents between 14 and 17 years of age in the hard task of discovering their individuality, ever more responsible for their own actions. In the handcraft and artistic works, the adolescent encounters the limits dictated by the nature of the materials he/she is working with and this is useful for his/her own education.
WORKSHOP SCHOOL FOR THE HANDICAPPED
Mentally handicapped children were integrated into the Nurseries and Youth Centers of the Association. It was realized that these children bring great human value to a harsh society, which evaluates people by what they are able to produce and by their intellectual skills. In permanent contact with the disabled and other minorities, prejudice levels are lower and life in the community has become more agreeable for all.
The Therapy Center of Monte Azul was opened in 1998. The work is mainly to stimulate the cognitive, emotional and spiritual development of the handicapped, according to the curative educational method; physical education, singing, sports, theater and art therapies are also employed.
Infirmaries offer the population a more human alternative to the deficient public health services. The patient is the core of medical, dental, and therapeutic attention and of the nurses’ care. The concept of "family doctor" has been encouraged, allowing a continuous assistance to the community children and adults. The patients are given an opportunity to participate in the healing process, thus stimulating their recovery.
Among the several means of prevention, healthy nutrition is a priority. At the Horizonte Azul center a garden produces agrotoxic-free vegetables, which are supplied to all the Association kitchens.
The cultural project at Monte Azul seeks both the preservation of the cultural roots and the incentive of the community’s creativity – and in doing so the participants' citizenship is strengthened as is their fulfillment as human and social beings.
Instead of merely watching an artificial life on TV, children, youngsters and adults take part in events, courses, and workshops, which include theater, circus, dance, "capoeira" (a martial art inherited from slavery times), and sculpture activities. The musical, dancing and acting performances are an opportunity for exchanging experiences between local groups with professional artists. In this way, ethical, artistic and aesthetic values are cultivated.
SOCIAL WORKSHOP SCHOOL
The Social Workshop School is a training program based on anthroposophy. It is directed to all co-workers of the Association, but welcomes any other interested people from the community. It seeks to enlarge a person’s action field, helping people to become more capable of social work, with deeper understanding that human beings are physical, psychic and spiritual creatures. To become professional is to have a view of the whole, to develop self-confidence, creativity, perseverance and capacity to work in-group, to make decisions and to assume responsibilities.
Each collaborator adds artistic and cultural experiences as well as social and professional skills to his/hers career. The participant in the Social Workshop School is both a teacher and a pupil as he/she learns from work and works while learning.
The main objective of the School is to educate and enable people to develop and use their social talents even outside Monte Azul, thus contributing to the development of a healthy humankind.
We currently work on basic hygiene, environment and sanitation programs. In the slums, narrow walkways, bridges, clean water and sewage systems are built in association with the urbanization program of the City of São Paulo. The Committee of Inhabitants has been supporting the community cultural activities more effectively. One of the most positive results of the community efforts in all sectors of local life is a significantly low rate of criminality.
The activities carried out at the Association are related to a network of other institutions and people in São Paulo, in the rest of Brazil and also in other countries. Monte Azul is not only physically visible but is also a place where people of different social levels and different cultures and countries meet to start transformation programs.
- To promote love among human beings regardless of race, creed, political preference, social and physical conditions.
- To guarantee equal opportunities through education, culture and health, especially to under-privileged people, aiming at the development of their material, social and spiritual status, in order that they may behave with conscience and love.
Nowadays raising funds has been a huge challenge for any social-educational work. The Government transfers more and more social responsibilities to the private sector, without supplying even the minimal resources necessary for their support. Private initiatives understand the necessity for social investments, but they are unable to provide support for educational, health and cultural services on a long-term basis. The social entities have been trying to turn their fund raising into a professional activity in order to meet a recent market challenge: the competition for private sector resources. The struggle for survival corrupts solidarity, which has been the original spirit of all social works.
This is the scenario in which Monte Azul has been struggling and it suffers from the uncertainty of any reliable future support. Where should the funds to sustain our services come from if not from government, from industry and from society in general? Otherwise, what is the meaning of self-sustainability?
We wish to express our deepest gratitude to all friends, godparents, partners and volunteers who have helped us to pave the road and have accompanied us on the journey we have been taking for these past 21 years.
Monte Azul Community Association
Av. Tomas de Souza 552
05836-350 Sao Paulo