Supporting a Program on Nutrition and Education for the Street Children in Salvador, Brazil
Project location: BRAZIL, Salvador
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: December 2012
Project number: 2012-039
Beneficiary: Associazione Progetto Axé Italia Onlus
This project involves providing 450 children and adolescents (aged up to 18 years old) with two meals a day for a year and educating them in the fundamental importance of a healthy diet in the physical, mental and social development of every human being. The aim is to give the children access to food (in particular to healthy and well balanced meals) and at the same time to provide them with adequate nutrition education. The project also intends to lay the foundations for a future multiplication/"viral" effect with the aim of gradually improving the quality of life in the local context (Salvador).
Children living on the streets are subject to terrible suffering, humiliation and brutality as a result of hunger, sexual abuse, criminal violence and the denial of access to public places. To this must be added their vulnerability to various diseases and their condition of perennial invisibility or negative visibility.
Malnutrition is a well-known problem and represents a serious impediment to the growth of these children (in terms of their psychophysical development). More often than not hunger makes them prey for unscrupulous people who use food as a currency of exchange for sexual favours, as a "bridge" for the sale of drugs, etc.
Often street children live on food that has been scavenged in waste bins or rubbish dumps, or in any event on improvised meals, all of which are of very poor quality (in terms of hygiene and nutrition). This kind of "pseudo diet" leads to serious and lasting damage, including diseases such as tuberculosis, which result in the death of a large number of children before they reach adolescence.
These conditions change enormously once the children join PROJETO AXE's, even though life on the streets often leaves indelible physical and psychological scars.
The founding principle of PROJETO AXE' is the inalienable right to life, which presupposes - among other things - the right to regular and healthy meals.
Every year PROJETO AXE' works with roughly 1,000 children and adolescents living in conditions of extreme poverty: for many, the meals offered by PROJETO AXE' represent the only nutritional resource to which they have access.
Not only the quantity but also the quality of food is a serious problem in areas of extreme poverty: approximately 3.5 million children die each year due to lack of food or as a result of a diet lacking in the nutrients needed for growth. For this reason, PROJETO AXE' aims not only to guarantee the children two meals a day, but also to provide them with an appropriate diet since meals taken outside the Centre are not nutritionally balanced.
The menu that PROJETO AXE' intends to provide with the support of Nando Peretti Foundation will take the various nutritional requirements (vitamins, proteins, minerals) into account and will be developed and supervised by a nutritionist. In addition, PROJETO AXE' aims to educate the youngsters and their families in diet and nutrition and to provide training for its staff in the same field.
The project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, involves the metropolitan area of Salvador in the State of Bahia in Brazil, where millions of people live below the poverty line in shanty towns or poor rural areas: this situation has given rise to the phenomenon of meninos de rua, namely street children who are left to fend for themselves.
The same area is characterised by extreme criminal activity: the document "Violence in Salvador" contains dramatic figures concerning the violence that affects groups of young people aged between 15 and 39 in particular in all large cities in Brazil. In Salvador violence is most common among young people: this is when death occurs in its most brutal form, by firearm. Today Salvador is the most dangerous city in Brasil (in relation to the number of inhabitants): every week, there are 20 murders of young people aged 15 to 29!
In this context PROJETO AXE' is a point of reference for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable social groups, namely children and young people who live in poverty on the streets and are deprived of their basic rights (often they do not even have a birth certificate allowing them to access social services such as hospital treatment or government subsidies for the poorest people).
The project will include the following measures:
1) Working with children
Under the present project, the PROJETO AXE' Units (buildings) will prepare two meals a day for 450 children/adolescents for a year, according to a menu developed by a nutritionist that takes into account their various dietary requirements.
In addition, PROJETO AXE' will provide nutrition education to the same 450 children and their families. The educational activities will take place at Unit (building/laboratories) of PROJETO AXE' (located in the Pelourinho area, old center of Salvador): lessons on nutrition every two months and a monthly workshop at which the students, together with the educators and the people in charge of the food sector, will prepare various dishes; the students will also take part in shows performed using marionettes and puppets to personify foods such as legumes, fruit and vegetables; the educators will then build a food pyramid using real foodstuffs; throughout this process the students will compose poems and make drawings, paintings and artistic objects reflecting the theme; lastly, a musical and vocal repertory will be built around the theme with the aim of staging public performances.
2) Working with families*
The involvement of the family* is an essential part of the educational project: PROJETO AXE' works intensely with the families with the aim of rebuilding, reintegrating and strengthening emotional ties. This work contemplates:
- Visits by the Axé educator to the "family" home; they are an integral part of the process of accompanying the families to ensure their constructive involvement in the life of the students. Often they are also dictated by the need to help the families resolve specific problems
- Group meetings with the students' families. These are held systematically with the double aim of informing the families of the students' development and educating them through discussions on such important topics as family violence, unemployment, the right to subsidies, children's rights, school education, etc.
PROJETO AXE' will introduce nutrition education within the context of this methodology/consolidated relationship with the families, inserting it into a broader and ongoing process of learning aimed at the gradual transformation of their customs, culture and spending habits.
The adoption by the Axé Pelourinho Unit (which provides the children with 2 meals a day) of a healthy dietary regime is not enough to ensure a lasting impact on the health of the children and adolescents. Rather, the families need to be actively involved in changing their consumption standards. PROJETO AXE' works hard to promote the sustainability of the educational process in the belief that lasting change is only possible with the families' involvement.
* The term "family" is to be understood in a broad sense: often it is not the traditional family (father and mother) but rather a sister, an aunt or a female neighbour...
The general aim is to improve the quality of life of the children and adolescents at the PROJETO AXE' Units (students) by meeting their daily nutritional requirements and promoting a change in their eating habits through activities aimed at creating awareness of the importance of a proper diet.
The specific aims of the project include:
1) Providing 450 socially vulnerable students (children and adolescents) with two meals a day for a year, devising a balanced menu that meets their dietary needs (thus reducing health problems for them resulting from a poor and unbalanced diet);
2) Developing nutrition education activities to improve the quality of life of the students and their families, who come from situations of poverty and hardship; also:
- developing greater awareness among students of the importance of a healthy diet and ability to appraise what they eat from a nutritional perspective
- developing a culture of nutrition, hygiene and recycling among students' families
3) Transforming Axé students and their families into multiplication agents able to promote the sustainability of the project (the project intends to lay the foundations for a future multiplication/"viral" effect with the aim of gradually improving the quality of life in the local context - Salvador).
4) Training the staff responsible for preparing food.
This project received a grant also for the period 2013-2014.