Empowering youth through the arts in Brazil

By Emily Pavolini | July 22, 2019 | The Americas | Education, Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Youth Empowerment

Our local partner Viva a Vida is bringing arts education to young people in Brazil to inspire change. A 2019 Maya Ajmera Sustainability Award winner, Viva a Vida is helping teens make healthy choices, develop their self-esteem, and take charge of their futures.

In 2003, Gisella Hanley Santos founded Viva a Vida in Bahia, Brazil in response to the demand for a drug treatment center for children. Since then, the organization has continued to positively impact its community, Vila de Abrantes, by working with young people to advance human rights, prevent drug abuse, and combat violence.

A GFC partner, Viva a Vida uses theater, graffiti, poetry, photography, and other forms of art to empower youth to make healthy choices and to take control over their lives. Viva a Vida’s youth theater club provides a unique blend of arts and drug prevention as young people create plays to perform for the community. The organization’s youth group, VivaJuntos, works to develop young leaders who then implement their own community-based drug prevention activities.

In May, we recognized Viva a Vida’s success creating lasting change for young people by naming the organization a winner of our 2019 Maya Ajmera Sustainability Award.

A participant in Viva a Vida's VivaJuntos graffiti group. Photo by Cleiton Oliveira.

This year’s Sustainability Award, named in honor of our founder Maya Ajmera, recognizes the accomplishments of three of our local partners while providing an investment in their long-term stability.

Viva a Vida’s leadership shows the potential to guide, mobilize, and inspire young people to reach out and shape their community. Thiago’s story is just one example of how Viva a Vida’s work truly leaves an impact on youth and their communities.

Thiago, a 17-year-old who participates in VivaJuntos, explained how much Viva a Vida has influenced him. Before Viva a Vida, Thiago was surrounded by violence and by opportunities to participate in criminal activity and drug use. After finding Viva a Vida, he developed artistic skills and was able to become a leader in his community.

“Poetry helps me express all my feelings that are usually kept hidden in this standardized society,” Thiago said. “Getting to knowing Viva a Vida has changed my way of being, the way I see life. Viva a Vida has benefited my education, and helped me see that I can be even more than I thought I could be.”

Its visible impact on the community helps drive Viva a Vida to strive for long-term sustainability. Viva a Vida has also connected with other smaller organizations in its region in order to strengthen its cause and to work together toward a common goal: a better tomorrow for children and youth.

Based on Viva a Vida’s potential and accomplishments, a committee of past recipients and representatives of the Youth Leadership Council decided to name Viva a Vida a Maya Ajmera Sustainability Award winner.

A participant in Viva a Vida's VivaJuntos graffiti group. Photo by Cleiton Oliveira.
What does the future hold?

With the award, Viva a Vida will work toward its longtime goals to consolidate and extend its work in youth leadership, to train youth “knowledge multipliers” and support young artists to work in the community, and to found a Youth Management Commission within Viva a Vida’s Board. The organization will also use the award to enhance its financial sustainability.

This work will support its mission to empower adolescents and young people so they can make healthy choices and develop self-esteem, autonomy, and control over their lives. With the Sustainability Award, Viva a Vida can reach further into its community and initiate a greater change throughout the region, reaching more than 2,000 people through its activities.

We, at GFC, are proud partners of Viva a Vida and look forward to seeing the organization continue to help youth in Vila de Abrantes reach their full potential.

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