ConnectEd Impact in Brazil – “I want, I can, I achieve, I deserve”

27 11 2013

I believe education should be the basis of every society and my work with the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation reinforces this every single day. On the 11th and 18th of November, together with Gabriela Cano of Alcatel-Lucent Brazil, I had the opportunity to visit ConnectEd Brazil in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and, once more, I felt the impact our work has where it is needed the most: youth education.

In Brazil, ConnectEd partnered with Instituto Aliança com o Adolescente to reach youth in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Here, ConnectEd works with young people from low-income families, who are between the ages of 16-24, and are enrolled in or graduated from formal secondary schools. It was wonderful meeting and observing them during training hours, talking with them about their dreams and beliefs and about the impact the program has in their daily lives. I was moved to tears by their life stories and above all, by their optimism and life approach.

Visit at the CAFU Center

Visit at the CAFU Center

Under ConnectEd, dreams like being a teacher, an IT specialist, a pediatrician, a veterinarian, joining the army or being a drummer in a rock band are a step closer to becoming reality, as besides the skills and knowledge the program gives the participants, it’s the confidence they have what it takes to fulfill their dreams that helps them the most.

With sparkly eyes and bright smiles the youth in the Cafú and Barueri centers talked about their life projects, the steps they are taking to improve themselves, and the skills they acquired during the program that now make their dreams possible. At Cafú, I was most impressed by the computer game Lucas designed to showcase his career plan, by the video Sabrina made in just 4 days to show us how she images her future and last but not least, by the short film about their community, documenting  lives, professions, happy and sad moments. One of the challenges the program had, as part of the Community Stage, was “showcasing  life  in their neighborhood”  and the documentary was the result. The aim was to make the students aware of successful people that followed public school education, as most of them feel that the public school system in Brazil does not necessarily equip them with what they need to have successful careers. By going inside and talking with various member of the community, they learned that they can do more and their personal approach towards life and career is as important as the education they have access to. ConnectEd is a program where the entire community participates because the students want their involvement.

Eu quero, Eu posso, Eu consigo, Eu mereço

Eu quero, Eu posso, Eu consigo, Eu mereço

As our visit in São Paulo was approaching it’s end, one of the students, Camila, told us that “ConnectEd is not just preparation for the world of work, but for our entire lives” and 51 voices raised to say the exact same thing. “We are always gonna be bigger than our ambitions, so we can achieve them for sure.” I left them being inspired! By them, with their progress, by their professors Ingrid and Lucilly and by Instituto Aliança. To say that ConnectEd’s work in the area is a great success  will be an understatement.

In Rio de Janeiro I met with the wonderful youth and trainers from the Com.Domínio Digital Carioca and Campinho centers. While the program is very similar with the centers in São Paulo, following the five standard stages: Identity, Integration, Communication, Work, and Ethics and Civic Education, there is  a small difference in approach and content, with the purpose to tailor the program for the area the youth are coming from.

In the Campinho Center we discussed mostly about the learning the youth gained in the Work Stage of ConnectEd. As part of the program they had to start a company, develop a product and a marketing campaign, starting with a budget of 50 R$/22 USD. They had to create everything from scratch, and we had a lot of fun tasting “empadas” with cheese and chicken, delicious “brigadeiros”, chocolates, donuts and cupcakes, which were the products of choice for 5 of the 6 teams.  They considered everything, from logos and radio commercials for their products, to the financial planning that helped them all have profit at the end. They told us how people knocked at their doors to ask for their product because it was that good, and how empowered they felt towards the end, when they realized their success.

During the work stage they felt that the most important learning was on the significance of team work. While being shy at the beginning, they learned to share their ideas out loud,  to plan for their future, to be focused and have confidence in their skills. They learned to listen to each other and the importance of respect.

We then talked about the most difficult moment for them, during ConnectEd. They all agreed that it happened in the Identity stage of the program, when they had to bring an object that represented themselves and open up about their past difficulties. These are young people coming from low-income families and when they joined the program their confidence in the results of the program was lacking. It took time for them to open up to their peers and professors, to gain trust in the program and lastly in themselves. Now, 5 months later, they feel empowered, part of a special community and equipped with what they need to be successful.

In the afternoon we met the students in the Carioca center. I felt the same wonderful energy and hope as in the 3 previous centers. Here we talked about their News Show and blog, about the digital skills they acquired during the program, their dreams of careers in marketing, fashion, joining the army, civil engineering and going to veterinary school. The difference ConnectEd made in their life, to quote one student: “before it was what happens, happens. Now I plan for my future and I have the confidence that though it will be hard, I can make it happen!” While in different cities and centers, with different people, the participants shined.

Students from the CDD Carioca Center

Students from the CDD Carioca Center

What I love most about ConnectEd is the fact that the program gives the participants hope for their future. “Eu quero, Eu posso, Eu consigo, Eu mereçoI want, I can, I achieve, I deserve” – there could not be a more appropriate motto in Brazil for the program that, among important skills for joining the workforce, it teaches hope and confidence and the belief that even if life is hard, you can succeed, you can fulfill your dreams. “ I would like to thank ConnectEd Program for believing in my dreams” are words that will stay with me.

ConnectEd Brazil reminded me an important lesson as well, even though I only spend 2 days with the program: There should be no end in contributing and promoting education. Lack of access to good education hampers the growth of a nation, country, generation, effectively our future. By supporting education, we are investing in our future! I am proud to work for a company that does the best it can to support education and digital inclusion in the communities we are present in and I am proud to be part of ConnectEd.

A few important facts about ConnectEd:

The Alcatel-Lucent Foundation has partnered with World Education Inc. to implement ConnectEd, the global signature program of the Foundation. ConnectEd is designed to address factors limiting the work and life options of disadvantaged youth, with an emphasis on girls and women. The program currently operates in Australia, Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia.

In total, over the duration of the program, ConnectEd has reached 17,866 youth, of whom 61% have been girls. In Year 3, ConnectEd overall has reached 10,258 youth, 64% girls. In Brazil, since the program started, we reached 637 boys and 1,155 girls, with a total of 1,792 youth.

This blog post was originally published on the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation website. The first two images in this post are by photographer Marcela Beltrão. You can see more of her wonderful work here.

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