Uberlândia, a city of over 680,000 in southeastern Brazil, is the fourth largest city of the interior region of the country. It boasts an extensive public bus system, a federal university, and numerous private schools of various levels. Located in an agricultural region, the municipality brings together an urban and rural mindset.
Among its many neighborhoods you will find one called Shopping Park, and underresourced community of around 40,000 that has been in formation since the 1980s. For many years it was essentially off the grid, lacking water, sanitation, electricity, and asphalt. The first residents had to make the long trek downtown — without public transport — to obtain basic services, such as banking and shopping.
Matters have improved somewhat in recent years, with basic services and public transport reaching it. In 2010 the city hall declared this neighborhood of special social interest, enrolling it in a federal housing program and further increasing the population. Nothing has come easily for the community, with even the initial construction of the municipal public school building in the neighborhood being build by 20 residents, in 2000. Home to many hardworking people, the steep economic gap prevalent throughout various parts of Brazil is in evidence here.
Seeing the lack of childcare options and many vital social services, in 2004 a group of people formed to do something to change this reality. The Centro de Formação Comunitário São Francisco de Assis, an NGO more commonly known as 'Estação Vida,' was brought into existence. Providing a safe place for over 150 children before and after school, as well as healthy meals, educational opportunities, games, sports, music, and basic computing. Estação Vida reaches over 200 youth with programming that brings in more children for martial arts and other events.
In 2020, seeing the good work of Estação Vida and wanting to raise its profile and provide a secure, tax-exempt means for people in the United States and elsewhere to help out financially, Uberlândia Development Initiatives (UDI Brazil) was organized. Currently still in formation, UDI Brazil is finalizing paperwork to become a 501(c)3 organization. Once this is accomplished, contributions will begin to be received and passed along to Estação Vida in Brazil.
UDI Brazil is a separate support organization for Estação Vida, in a partnership to bring opportunities for physical, social, academic, and emotional growth to the young people of the Shopping Park neighborhood, providing them and their families some of the means to thrive.