by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, Americas Regional Office
ChildFund works with more than 100 local partner organizations spanning 883 communities in Brazil. One of them is PROCAJ: Projecto Caminhando Juntos (Walking Together Project) in Diamantina, about a six-hour drive from Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais and the location of our Brazil National Office.
PROCAJ works with 22 rural communities outside of the city of Diamantina. It can take hours to drive to any given community, along dusty dirt-packed roads and over shaky wood-plank bridges. Some communities are only accessible via horse, which the PROCAJ staff borrow when they arrive at the outskirts, where the dirt roads end and the steep terrain begins. It is the dry season now, so many of the plants are wilted and brown, and everything is covered with red-clay rust.
Virginia is a social educator with PROCAJ and is participating in the Intel Child Status Index (CSI ) pilot. I first met her in March, when she came to Belo Horizonte for an initial discussion about the pilot. She made an immediate impression on me — outspoken, confident and focused on the well-being of the children. Now I am here in Diamantina for the pilot implementation and am going community-to-community with Virginia for the data collection.
I took the opportunity to sit down and do a quick interview with Virginia so you can know more about the faces of ChildFund in the communities:
How long have you lived in the area? Since childhood. I was born here. I am from here — I am Diamantina. I worked briefly in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte some, but mostly only in Diamantina. This is my home.
How long have you worked in the social development field? Six years: one year as part of my university research and field work and then five years with PROCAJ.
How did you decide to work with PROCAJ? I saw an announcement in the paper and was already familiar with the good reputation of PROCAJ and of Fundo Cristao para Criancas (ChildFund Brazil). I wanted to give back and to work more in the rural communities to make a difference. When I first began thinking about poverty and social work while in university, my interest was awoken. I knew what path I wanted to take, I was committed to social action and I knew I had to apply for the position.
How many families/communities do you oversee? I oversee four communities, representing more than 200 families. I work not only with the children enrolled in ChildFund, but their siblings and other family members as well.
What do you like about your job? I like being in the field, in the communities with the families doing the program activities. I like the direct contact with the families because you can see and feel their reality. You can feel the happiness of the children, and you see the program results in their lives. You dream it in the office and you realize it in the field.
How do you think child sponsorship creates change in communities? Sponsorship is a positive thing. It is a resource — financial, professional, personnel — and it brings the development to the people. It is the first step for lifelong changes. And when sponsors write, the children have a new friend far away.
Learn more about Virginia’s work in the CSI pilot in tomorrow’s blog post.