Supporting Estacão Vida from Afar: My Journey to Establish a Non-Profit Organization

In 2014, while living in Uberlândia, Brazil, I had the opportunity to volunteer for an NGO called 'Centro de Formação Comunitário São Francisco de Assis.' This experience was truly rewarding, and I am eager to share about the great work they are doing in the community.

The organization, also known as Estacão Vida, was founded in 2004 by a group of individuals who recognized the need for change in the underresourced neighborhood of Shopping Park in Uberlândia. With approximately 40,000 residents, the community faces many challenges, and Estacão Vida seeks to provide support and sustainable solutions.

One issue they tackle is the half-day schedule of elementary and high schools in Brazil. During the morning session, students are finished for the day by noon, and the afternoon session begins with a completely different group of students. For working-class families, this means their children are often left alone or in the care of relatives for half the day. Estacão Vida offers classes, workshops, and activities during the time when students are not in regular school. Children participate in various activities such as computer labs, guitar lessons, capoeira, ballet, sewing, and even making items like purses and wallets. They also receive a healthy meal, with some ingredients coming from the garden that Estacão Vida operates within its walls. The water for the garden comes from the drain of the water fountain that the children drink from, and the electricity is generated by solar panels on the roof, allowing Estacão Vida to operate completely off the grid.

In 2014, I (Adam Gonnerman) was able to contribute by helping set up a computer lab. With a donation of used computers from a local bank, my friend and I spent several visits cleaning, setting up hardware, and installing a user-friendly version of Linux on the computers. On our last visit, a volunteer teacher led the children through using spreadsheets, and I was delighted to see the fruit of our labor. The kids were engaged throughout the class and even got to play games in the last 10 minutes.

Recently, Shopping Park has also become home to many refugees, including Venezuelans who have escaped the economic collapse of their home country. The finance manager at Estacão Vida shared with me the story of a Venezuelan mother who built an improvised stone oven outside her home to cook using firewood, as she has no access to an oven.

Since I returned to the United States, I have been thinking about how I can continue to support Estacão Vida from a distance. One challenge that I noticed is that their website is only available in Portuguese, which makes it difficult for the world to learn about their great work. Additionally, donating requires knowledge of the Brazilian banking system and does not offer tax-exempt contributions for those in the United States. So, I decided to work with some friends and create the Uberlandia Development Initiatives, a recognized non-profit organization that enables people in the United States to make tax-deductible donations. UDI Brazil arranges to get the funds down to Brazil for special projects.

So, if you want to make a difference in the lives of children and families in Brazil, I encourage you to contribute today!

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