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Opportunities – changing young people’s future

This month Happy Child International focuses on the theme “opportunities”.

Instituto Solidare, delivers the Mentoring and Skills Training Project and is an organisation that partners with Happy Child International in Recife, North East Brazil. This project provides opportunities for young people from low-income families to enter the job market.

UNESCO defines young people as those between the ages of 15 to 24. Recently the OECD (organisation for economic cooperation and development) completed a survey in 38 countries. Brazil came second for the country with the highest number of young people in neither work nor training. 35.9% of its young people are not enrolled in educational institutions and do not perform any professional activity.

Projects like the Mentoring and Skills Training Project are vital and empower young people allowing them to play a central role in their own future. In our work we believe that empowering young people will help value the talents they have, encourage them to participate fully in the development of their communities and be active in helping to eradicate poverty and inequality.

This month we hope you are inspired by reading some of the testimonies of the young people on the Mentoring and Skills Training Project. They share where they have come from and what their aspirations for the future are.

MARIA EDUARDO SOUZA’s personal testimony

Growing up

My name is Maria Eduarda Souza. I am 16 years old. I am the oldest of my 3 siblings. I live in Monte Verde. In my neighbourhood it’s quite common to hear young people talking about crime and drugs. There are rival gangs in my neighbourhood so it’s a hard place to be. Growing up I lived with my grandmother because Mum and Dad had to work. My parents divorced when I was 3. My Mum and me had to leave the family home. We moved in with my maternal Grandmother and my uncles. After that I saw very little of my Mum because she had to continue working. Eventually she moved out and I remained with my extended family. When I was 12 years old Mum met someone else and became pregnant with my half-brother. This was really hard for me. I missed my Mum growing up and even my father ended up moving away from the area.

Difficult times

In Brazil everyone celebrates their 15th birthday party as “the coming of age. Usually there is a big celebration. My family couldn’t even fund a training programme for me never mind a 15th Birthday party. I often used to feel sad and frustrated when I received scam phone calls saying I’d won a free place on a training programme. I would turn up and then you would be expected to pay. I felt so down that I almost gave up the whole idea of making a better life for myself.

Support from my family

Today I am 16 and thankfully my aunt looked out for me. She put me in contact with Instituto Solidare and helped me apply on – line to the Mentoring and Skills Training Project. I could not believe it when I got through the selection process.

The project is helping me a lot. It has helped me work on my self-awareness. I have discovered things about myself that I didn’t know. I have made a lot of friends and my team even came first in the training section on “starting a small business”. I am so grateful to Instituto Solidare. They have given me an opportunity to develop personally and professionally. I have hope for the future.

HEMYLLY MENDES personal testimony

A challenging beginning

My name is Hemylly Mendes. I am 18 years old. My Mum was 18 when she was expecting me and at the same time my dad went to prison. He was sentenced to 15 years. My Mum had to bring me and my sister up by herself.

At that time, she didn’t have work or a home. My Grandmother had to look after us while my Mum found work as a live in domestic.

Growing up my grandmother took us to work with her as there was no one else to leave us with. She sold popcorn in the city. My Mum eventually met someone else. Me and my siter went back to live with her for a time. Sadly my Mum’s relationship with my stepfather didn’t last and all of us ended up returning to my Grandmother’s house. I was happy to go back to that neighbourhood because all my friends were there. However I still really missed having a Dad.

At school Father’s Day was always celebrated but I never had a dad who could turn up. That really hurt. All the dads were there except for mine.

Life improving for me

Finally, my Mum got a job at the Metro station where she could earn a minimum salary. She saved up enough money to buy a small plot of land near my grandmother’s house. With quite makeshift material she had a house built on the plot. All of us moved in with her and life definitely got better.

In my adolescence I took some wrong turns. I got in with the wrong crowd and in 2021 I almost lost my life.

I shared all my problems with my Mum, and she encouraged me to get in contact with Instituto Solidare and apply for the Mentoring & Skills Training project. In 2022 I was amazed to get through selection. With this opportunity my life started to turn around. Routine filled my time, focused me on the future, on establishing work and helped me look at my behaviour. Things started to change. Today I’ve left the past behind. I want to grow and make my Mum proud of who I am.


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