First stop is the São Cristóvão neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Here, you cannot help but notice the historic charm, including a former imperial palace that now houses the National Museum of Brazil. The São Cristóvão fair—a huge open-air market—draws locals and tourists alike to enjoy Brazilian food, traditional crafts, and live music.
But for children and youth growing up in the surrounding favelas, or slums, the neighborhood’s charm is compromised by poverty. Violence, crime, and drug abuse are common. With few opportunities, many young people spend their days on the streets.
Ricardo Calçado, Onda’s founder and executive director, is working to change that. Each week, Onda brings together dozens of kids at a community sports hall to play games—the favorite, of course, is soccer!
Onda uses sports as an entry point for positive influence on children’s lives.
The program is a safe space where kids work with mentors, eat healthy snacks or meals, and learn about important values like teamwork, nonviolence, and social justice. Most importantly, they receive the love and attention of caring adults.
When the sports program started, it was held in a community square. It was an instant hit with the local children, but they frequently witnessed drug deals, violent arrests, and shootings. Growing up in the favelas, children learn how to negotiate these dangers from an early age—but not on Ricardo’s watch. He stresses the importance of removing children from this environment, even for just one afternoon each week.
Above left: Ricardo helps hand out new soccer uniforms.
As part of the program, the children receive professional uniforms. “The kit [uniform] is a way for the children to feel proud to be part of something, part of a team. They feel they belong to something constructive here,” explains Ricardo.
Now we’ll travel to the state of Minas Gerais to visit Onda’s most ambitious and innovative project, the Vila do Sonhos (Villa of Dreams).
Ricardo calls the Vila an “Eco Social Center,” where people come together for a variety of learning and training activities that are focused on human development, environmental responsibility, and social action.
The space welcomes children, youth, and families from the surrounding rural community, as well as volunteers and visitors from across Brazil and around the world. Workshops and events at this eco-friendly mini-village help young people develop skills in areas of citizenship, career development, environmental protection, and more.
When GFC first started funding Onda Solidária in 2012, the Villa of Dreams was just that—a dream, and an empty field. Today, the center includes a kitchen, dining area, classrooms, two dormitories, an eco-sanitation system, an organic horticulture garden, and a small farm. Onda has also helped to build roads and develop water systems in the surrounding community.
Recently, with the help of a GFC organizational development award, Onda Solidária began its strategic planning process—a crucial step as the organization continues to grow and mature.
We are proud to support Onda Solidária and its amazing vision for the children of Brazil. Thanks for visiting!
All photos © Onda Solidária unless otherwise indicated.
Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.
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