Thursday, September 15, 2011

Helping Seniors Regain their Dignity

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL -- In the midst of poverty, all too often the senior citizens suffer the most, due to of their lack of income, medical access and opportunity. This is also true here in the favela shanty-towns of Rio de Janeiro, where tens of thousands of seniors struggle to survive. With a desire to make a difference, Cause & Affect first sought out a local non-profit organization already doing effective work to address the situation. Working with our wonderful local partner IBISS, we discovered Novo Olhar aos Idosos, which is located in the Vila Cruzeiros neighborhood we have been concentrating on this year, as seen in out last two blog reports.

This project trains social workers to visit 25 seniors in need on a weekly basis. Once a week, they arrive to take the senior to the doctor, to the market, to the bank or just spend time to provide companionship, as many of these people suffer from neglect and loneliness. For those that live with their families, the social workers help train these families to address the needs and wishes of their elderly family members.

When Cause & Affect expressed our desire to help, we visited several of the seniors and it became obvious there are MANY needs to address. Some of these people are living in sub-humane conditions, such as 84 year-old Dona Augusta (upper right), whose roof had sprung a nasty leak, soaking her bed and tiny home in water. The ensuing mold created a horrible stench and very unhealthy living conditions. We quickly had the roof repaired and as the video shows, Dona Augusta is happy to report her home and bed are now dry.

We also followed the lead of the Make-A-Wish project, granting her decades-long wish by buying her a plane ticket to visit her family in Bahia, in the Northeast of Brazil, as Dona Augusta had migrated to Rio 40 years earlier and had never had the money to visit her long-lost family. We put her on a flight for the first time in her life and as she explains in the video, once she took off into the blue sky, she just wanted to reach out and touch the clouds. Ah, the child reawakens...
For Dona Belinice, a 95 year-old woman very dear to our hearts, home improvement was also the major need, so we rebuilt her patio that had been destroyed years earlier by rain so that she can now sit outside and actually get some fresh air and sun.
For a woman confined to a dark little home, you can imagine what a refreshing joy it is to now be able to enjoy the outdoors. As she told us, "The sun brings life." Gospel, indeed. We also installed some hand-rails in her home so she can get in and out of bed and go to the bathroom without falling, as had happened numerous times earlier. As she blessed me (see video), the strength of her wonderful spirit was on full display.

For other seniors, we provided reading glasses and dental prostheses. Looking at the before and after smiles, it is obvious how much appreciated our assistance was in improving these wonderful seniors lives. Cause & Affect spent a total of $2,600 to address these many mini-projects. Special thanks to Peter de Jong, who visited the seniors' homes with us and passed along a very generous donation!

"Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members."- Pearl S. Buck

Thank you to all of our wonderful donors. To help more seniors like this please give here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Emergency Family Assistance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL -- Though our focus at Cause & Affect has been assisting pre-existing non-profits, in some cases, we encounter particular individuals and families in such dire need that we feel obliged to help. [ WATCH THE VIDEO HERE]
While visiting Vila Cruzieros, one of Rio de Janeiro's most destitute favela shanty-towns, we were introduced to Dona Rosangelina, a single mother of three who does not have the resources to feed her children. Since her documents were destroyed, she has not been eligible to receive even the most basic government assistance. Our first step was taking her to get replacement documents, so she will start receiving help in two months. But until then, it is imperative to help this family with the most basic necessities.
Dona Rosangelina earns only $50 a month ironing clothes, hardly enough to feed a family of four. With the assistance of our friend Tim Shirk, we jumped into action. Our next step was taking them to the supermarket to purchase food to fill their nearly-empty refrigerator. It is hard to believe that for most of her children's lives, this mother has NEVER been able to buy items we take for granted like fresh fruit or meat. Under normal circumstances, Rosangelina enters the supermarket with $7/week. Try feeding four hungry mouths with that! Over the course of two months, we have purchased $300 worth of food for the family. The kids, who were on the verge of malnutrition, now find it easier to concentrate in school and once their government assistance kicks in, the family will be able to maintain a more healthy diet. WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

In addition to food, we have provided some small improvements to help the family at large, such as a fan to ease the tropical heat and a used stove ($200) to allow the family to cook meals. We are also installing a showerhead ($100), so the family does not have to wash themselves out of a bucket.
As you can see from the video, the family is overjoyed to receive this emergency assistance that seemed to fall from the sky at the most crucial moment. Cause & Affect will be assisting more families facing especially desperate situations. IN this case, Tim Shirk stepped forward to contribute the money needed to keep this family from the brink; there are so many families faced with similar predicaments, so we can earmark donations to be directed to other families, which is a great way to pair more better-off families with some of those needing emergency assistance.

Thank you to all of our donors. Please pass this on and give here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Helping Teen Mothers Achieve a Better Future In Favelas of Rio de Janeiro

"What is your dream in life?" That is the first question these teen mothers hear when they walk in the door of the wonderful new project Cause & Affect has helped establish here in the favela shanty-towns of Rio de Janeiro. In a stark environment in which many of the life dreams of young women are permanently hijacked due to unplanned pregnancy, it is refreshing to hear 17 year-old Roberta reply, "I want to be a lawyer. I want to provide a bright future for my baby girl."


Sadly, without assistance from social programs like this, most of these young mothers drop out of school, and without an education or encouragement, depend on their family or government assistance to support them. Furthermore, many do not know how to properly care for their baby. Looking to address this problem, Cause & Affect visited some of these neighborhoods in search of a way to improve the situation. In Vila Cruzeiros (in Rio's impoverished North Zone), we found a wonderful program called Meninas Maes which was created by the amazing Brazilian-Dutch organization IBISS.

We soon learned that despite the success of this project, in the nearby Complexo de Alemão (a collection of 14 smaller neighborhoods), there are NO programs set up to assist teen mothers. For decades, this complex was controlled by drug cartels, but after after a bloody but necessary battle last year, was the neighborhood "pacified" and the drug dealers forced to flee. As a result, the government is finally able to deliver basic social services, such as health clinics, garbage collection and other programs. On the heels of this battle, faced with the brighter future in the Complexo, IBISS, Meninas Maes and Cause & Affect were able to establish an additional project in this neighborhood, which will help countless mothers (and their families) overcome this challenge! We secured a great new facility and jumped to action to prepare the space for the project to begin.

As always, Cause & Affect arrived and asked, "What are your immediate needs?"
The director Isabel Monteiros alerted us that the pressing need was to prepare the space for the project, as they already have social workers collecting girls to participate and materials to distribute. While not as glamorous as providing baby food or paying for life-changing surgeries, getting the doors open was the pressing need here, so we made their wish a reality. That is how our micro-philanthropy model thrives: addressing the local needs at that very moment. The $1,403 (2,217 Brazilian Reais) we spent covered cleaning materials, new windows and floor tiles (and installation in the new facility). In addition, we provided lunches for the new participants.


As the video illustrates, this project is essential in keeping these girls' hopes alive. Hope for a well-paying job so they can provide for their family, hope for a better education and hope for a better future. By empowering these young women and letting them see their true potential, we are helping them re-write their life stories. Thanks to your contributions, Cause & Affect has ensured a brand new start for these wonderful young women. Thank you!