The Triangle in Brazil


Ciara Cribben from the Donegal group looks back at our international exchange in October 2008 - Recife / Brazil:

"In October of this year myself and 4 others from Donegal, Darragh Condon, Deirdre Doheny, Louise Dunne and Stephen McNamee, were fortunate enough to participate in an international youth exchange through the Donegal Youth Service’s Youth Information Centre. This exchange was run by an international nongovernmental youth organisation called e.p.a., or the european play work association, which works with children and young people all over the world in an attempt to fight against racism, poverty and social exclusion.

The location for this year’s exchange was Recife, located in North East Brazil. Recife was chosen because of the level of social deprivation that this part of Brazil faces as well as the fact that it was the main port of entry to South America for slaves arriving from Africa.

The theme for the exchange was “A Different Triangle”, a direct reference to the slave trade triangle that existed centuries ago. The aim for this exchange was to try to break down some of the barriers of oppression and racism that still exist because of the slave trade and to make raise awareness of the existence of modern-day slavery such as human trafficking, prostitution and exploitation of cheap labour. Altogether there were 65 of us from Ireland, England, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Germany, Brazil, Jamaica, Ghana, Cape Verde, Columbia and the Dominican Republic.

Our host institution in Recife was called Casa de Passagem, an organisation founded by women who used to live on the streets, and which now caters for young children and adolescents (mainly female) who find themselves in deprived circumstances. Casa de Passagem offers programmes which aim to reintegrate these individuals back into their families and to increase their participation in society from an economic and political point of view. These education programmes are aimed at assisting communities, much like family resource centres or community projects in Donegal.

We spent the first week visiting various youth projects and communities around the city. Casa de Passagem organised dances and theatre visits for us which was a great opportunity to meet some of the people who are benefitting directly from the programmes that Casa de Passagem runs. We also attended some very moving talks by former prostitutes and city officials working to eradicate the child sex trade which unfortunately is all too prevalent in Brazil today.

One thing that struck us from the community visits was the amazing sense of solidarity that existed among the people there. There was a real belief among the locals that if they all worked together they could improve the lot of their community. Another thing that left a lasting impression on us was the level of involvement that these people had in their communities. We witnessed girls as young as 15 address audiences of over seventy people about issues that affected them.

They were a true inspiration to all of us to get involved and use our voices in our own societies. During the second week we stayed in a tiny seaside town called Maria Farinha about 2 hours north of Recife. We spent this week giving and listening to presentations from all the various country groups. Each country presented their particular organisation and told us about the social problems that existed within their countries for the groups that they work with. We also had workshops on subjects such as human rights and racism. These workshops were designed to give us an insight into what each of the participating projects was involved in and how the effects of slavery are still apparent in under-developed and developed societies alike.

Although our schedule was for the most part fairly hectic we did have some free evenings. During these evenings off we had intercultural nights where each country would cook or perform something native to their country. It was a great way of learning and experiencing cultures from all over the world as well as getting to know the participants from the different countries.

From a personal point of view one of the main things highlighted by the exchange is the importance of history in our present. Slavery is readily recognised as an evil that existed centuries ago but we need to reconcile that idea with the social and economic problems that so many countries still face today. Across the world people continue to suffer from forms of modern day slavery. This problem is not just confined to countries in the developing world as even in our own town there are boundaries to overcome with regard to social exclusion and racism.

Youth empowerment and involvement was another important aspect of the exchange. It is very easy as individuals to think that our opinions and actions do not matter, but if we do not stand up for what we believe in ourselves, then who will? If people, young and old, are kept informed of their rights then they can develop their skills of critical thinking and thus play active rather than passive roles in society. This is one of the main ideas that struck me personally from the exchange.

Overall, the exchange was a fantastic experience. “I am delighted that the Donegal Youth Service was chosen as a partner by the European Play-work Association for this tri-continental youth exchange and feel honoured personally to have taken part”, says Stephen. It was a great opportunity to meet and share experiences with so many different people. Darragh says that the exchange “was a real eye-opener to other cultures and individuals”. The exchange in Brazil was the first of a projected three under the title “A Different Triangle”. The hope is that we will all return to our respective countries and spread the knowledge that we have gained from the first exchange so that we can help to make our societies more just and accepting. I think all of us who participated in the Recife exchange returned home with a real sense of achievement and a belief that we can make a difference, at home and further afield, as long as we have the confidence to make our voices heard."

 

(Ciaras Report was taken from the website of the Donegal Youth Service.)