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."

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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!

Copyright © 2009 Cause & Affect Foundation