|© UNICEF video|
|The UNICEF-supported Children and Adolescents Care Centre, which is sponsored by Brazil’s Municipal Secretary of Health, helps to guarantee access to cultural, educational and sport activities for youths.|
By Thomas Nybo
VIÇOSA DO CEARÁ, Brazil, 28 December 2007 – Mothers in the small town of Viçosa do Ceará have spent many years trying to provide their children with a safe environment that will give them the opportunities they need to escape from poverty.
Elionete Maria Dos Santos is a mother of four who has been struggling to help raise her children using only her husband’s modest salary. The family feared that without intervention, their children might end up on the streets or involved in crime.
Those fears dissipated, however, with the creation of the UNICEF-supported Children and Adolescents Care Centre, which is sponsored by Brazil’s Municipal Secretary of Health. The centre’s mission is to guarantee that disadvantaged youths have access to cultural, educational and sport activities.
Socializing and learning
At the centre, groups of children are taught everything from traditional songs and dances to computer programmes. Tutors sit with children, helping them learn how to read without the pressures and expectations often found in crowded classrooms.
Youths also have plenty of time to socialize and interact with other children in a secure, safe environment.
"While they are in the centre, they are being prepared for their future," Ms. Dos Santos says. "I don’t have to be concerned with their meals. They have snacks and even lunch.”
Reducing child mortality
The Children and Adolescents Care Centre is actively working to reduce child mortality. It has hired more than 100 health agents who fan out through the community on motorcycles to reach some of the area's most impoverished and excluded children. The agents offer key services such as prenatal care and postnatal consultations.
A mobile ‘health bus’ also provides families with a range of services such as immunization and dentistry.
The centre offers opportunities for parents as well. Ms. Dos Santos herself is receiving training at the centre, where she is learning how to make clothing, which she will sell to help supplement her husband's salary.
Making learning fun
The dedicated, proactive staff at the centre works hard to make learning fun and encourage children to stay enrolled in school. "My daily role is to guarantee that children and teenagers are really learning," says Daniela Rufino, a coordinator at the centre. "I assure that new knowledge is being applied and learned."
Since the centre opened last year, Ms. Dos Santos’s children have already started getting better grades and are showing a greater interest in reading and studying.
"Now there is a place where our children can spend the day carrying out activities and learning things that will be useful for their future," she says.