Becoming Open-Minded

Today the International Development group went to Bairro de Chamanculo to visit one of our partners: “ASSCODECHA”. When we arrived, we were well received by the ASSCODECHA members who took us on a short tour around their center and gave us a brief overview of how they were organized and worked.

After the tour, we were invited into a workshop room where we received a short introduction about what ASSCODECHA does through a PowerPoint presented to us by Mr. Sebastiâo. Their goal was to make us more knowledgeable and open-minded as to what their project does, as well as to teach us about their methodology. Next, we set out on foot from the center to visit three students of ASSCODECHA.

The Hairdresser

We followed the leaders of ASSCODECHA around the Chamanculo neighborhood until we came to a hairdresser. There, we talked to the owner, who had been a student at one of the many workshops organized by ASSCODECHA. She had participated in the hairstyling classes and became one of the best students in her group. After completing the program, she joined with another classmate and a friend to open her own shop, where the two students are now able to perform more challenging work (such as braiding and dyeing) and the friend does most of the haircuts.

She stated that the course completely changed her life because it allowed her to use the little money she had to open and rent her shop as well as taught her all the skills she needed to run and work on her own business- free of charge.  These skills that she learned will also allow her to further develop her career as well as keep improving her business with time.

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The Tailor

We met a mother of three who was working as a tailor in her home. This lady had big dreams and a humble start. After attending a four-month tailoring/ sewing program, paid and organized by ASSCODECHA, she gained the basic skills which allowed her to sew independently. She already owned a sewing machine and was now able to use it to its full potential. Due to financial restriction and minor skills she said that she is still not able to get enough work to feed her family and live a stable lifestyle. Therefore, she mostly works at home but hopes to one day become a professional if she is just able to somehow become further educated.

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Vovó Inês

ASSCODECHA also has several projects which are done in collaboration with other groups and organizations. One of which is the “Bloco Sanitario”, a hygienic bathroom funded by Taksväkki (a Finnish NGO). They built a total of 6 bathrooms throughout the community, choosing the areas with the greatest need in terms of population and lack of hygiene. The bathrooms were all successfully implemented in the community and have greatly helped with the overall health development of Chamanculo. Vovó Inês (grandmother Inês) is the leader of her community and talked to us about how often her seven closest grandchildren go a whole day without eating and how the bathroom has changed her life and that of those around her.

To conclude, we visited a wide variety of places from which we acquired lots of new knowledge, helping us to get a better understanding of ASSCODECHA and what they do. Today has been a great experience for us to further learn about how these NGOs help the community and will allow us to give them suggestions on areas that could be improved. In several parts of the community we provided families (with children) small kits consisting of notebooks and pens, and we hope that these gifts could be used by the youth to build a brighter future. We are very grateful to ASSCODECHA and all the people that we were able to meet and interview. Each of the places we visited, from the hairdressers to vovó Inês, had an inspiring story to tell us as young students in our search of becoming more open-minded about the real world situation around us.

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