Among the people living on the street or in squats, children and young people in particular are exposed to very high risks because they have little access to social services and institutions and their basic rights are not guaranteed. Moreover, many of these young people are (functionally) illiterate because they have not even completed their primary education. This, and their irregular daily routine, drug abuse and violent behaviour are almost insurmountable obstacles to entry into the world of work.
Our partner organisation, the non-profit organisation São Martinho with whom Caritas Switzerland has successfully cooperated for around 35 years, can look back on more than three decades of experience of working with street-connected children and adolescents. During this period, it has grown into a nationally and internationally recognised professional organisation in its field. The aim of the project is the social integration of children and young people on the street, in squats or poor neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro. This is done through recreational activities, advocacy, integration into the labour market as well as lobbying.
The mobile outreach team of São Martinho visits the streets of the poor neighbourhoods and favelas of Rio on a daily basis. It distributes food and hygiene products to the street-connected children and youth, conducts local workshops and informs them about the organisation’s services. The project offers sports, cultural, leisure and educational activities to the children and young people. These are designed to provide them with a basis for developing their autonomy and social capacity and to open up new personal, social and professional prospects.
Vulnerable children and young people are given advice and support in the organisation’s centres. An interdisciplinary team of professionals (psychologists, social workers, teachers, lawyers) looks after the children and young people, organises meetings with their families and conducts house visits in difficult cases. In addition, it offers the beneficiaries and their families social and legal advice and draws up individual support and care plans with them. When necessary, the team also arranges referrals to specialised institutions of the (child)rights network.
The vocational preparation course prepares young people for vocational training programmes and includes technical (e.g. oral and written communication) as well as behavioural content (e.g. job application training and manners). The aim of these activities is to enhance the employability of socially vulnerable youth with appropriate vocational training measures.
To ensure the organisation’s sustainability, the focus of the project is on the diversification of the sources of income and forms of fundraising of São Martinho. To this end, the fundraising strategy is being revised, telemarketing is further professionalised, and cooperation agreements are entered into with institutions that complement their services in order to make joint submissions to national and international donors.