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Miles may lie between us, but we’re never far apart.

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Eve Barham
Eve Barham

This week, Happy Child International hosted Eve Barham, a local student from Ashtead, for a work experience day where she learnt about what the charity does to support young people in Brazil who struggle due to limited opportunities in education.

As well as this, she really enjoyed being able to ask questions and communicate with Maria Heloiza and Elida, two students from Jaboatão who are taking part in the Mentoring and Skills Training Project that Happy Child supports. Elida is 16 years old and Maria Heloiza is 18 years old. Despite using Zoom for the interview and there being a language barrier, interesting information was derived from our conversation and we got to know more about the girls and how they have benefited from the support of the Mentoring and Skills Training project.

At first, we introduced ourselves over our screens and sorted out how best to translate our conversation through the help of Caroline Taylor and Paulo Rodrigues who supervises Maria Heloiza and Elida and sees them often. They even endearingly refer to him as “Tio Paulo”, meaning Uncle Paulo. Then, our conversation began.


How many people are in your family, and do they work?

Elida told us she lives with her two sisters who are 16 and 8 and her father who works all day long from 6:45am to 7pm in mechanics and soldering. This manual labour job enables him to provide for his family of three daughters. Maria Heloiza then explained how she lives with her mother, who is extremely hardworking and has a casual job in the street selling sweets from a box around her neck. She works every day, and the heavy box causes her to have back pain and is very tiring.

Do you go to school as well as attending the Mentoring and Skills Training Project?

Paulo summarised how the girls attend the training project supported by Happy Child International from 8am until 12pm before then going home for lunch. They are back at school at 2pm; Elida then stays at school until 6pm whereas Maria Heloiza stays until 8:30pm.

Maria Heloiza

Do you enjoy school? What is your favourite subject?

Both Elida and Maria Heloiza happily told us how they both really enjoy school. Elida’s favourite subject is Geography whereas Maria Heloiza likes Sociology and Portuguese.

How have you both benefited from the project?

Elida recounted that she is really enjoying the project and how by having new experiences she is feeling more confident and her self-belief is improving. Elida said that she is attending classes to strengthen her CV and that she is learning how to enhance her interview technique by answering questions appropriately. Maria Heloiza explained that she is also enjoying and is grateful for the support of the Mentoring and Skills Training Project. She is currently participating in a project focusing on starting up and running a business; she is learning about marketing, product development and sales and feels more prepared to find a job. She is also learning about financial management - Paulo explained how this is her all-time favourite activity.

What are your future dreams and aspirations?

Elida wants to have a career in business and feels this is achievable from all she has learnt on the project. Maria Heloiza is keen to study medicine in Argentina, but this is not a simple process and there are three main steps she needs to take to be able to do this. She must first learn Spanish, but this is challenging as most of the classes are private, expensive and difficult to source. Then there is an important exam at the end of high school called “Enen” in which she must achieve a very high score. And finally, in Argentina, there is yet another exam to sit if she is to qualify for a free university place, like a scholarship. We all wished them good luck for their studies, and we told them how we really hope they will be able to achieve their dreams.

What are the opportunities in Brazil like for young people?

Elida stated how it is challenging to find opportunities in Recife due to the lack of education and because of the family’s financial situation. Maria Heloiza agreed with her classmate and explained that whilst it is very difficult for young people to find opportunities, their government does try to support them as best as they can.

Then, the girls started to ask Eve some similar questions about the opportunities she has in England and what she likes and dislikes about school. When Eve was sharing these answers, the girls were able to relate to her dislike of exams and homework and were laughing along. This shows how despite living in parallel situations, they are similar when it comes to personal interests. It also reveals how, although there may be a striking difference between vulnerable individuals trapped in a cycle of poverty and people who have more opportunities in life, we can all relate, support and communicate with each other.

  • Written by Eve Barham e Edited by Andrea Jones.


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