Centro da Juventude - A Youth Educational Centre for Porto

As we started the development project Brasil09 in 2007, we mostly wanted to help. With money that we would gain and fund by ourselves, especially by working. But what do children and youths in Brazil need the most? This question we posed the Brazilians in Porto.

As answer the Kolping family in Porto described a project containing the construction of a youth educational centre and different educational courses. As most of the youths in Porto grow up in poor circumstances and the teachers are not educated enough to give them a good basic education, many just have a low self-esteem. They do not believe that they can reach much. To change this is one of the main aims of the Kolping family Porto.

So our project in Brazil began with “Encontros de convivência”, meetings of living together. 65 adolescents out of especially poor families were invited by the Kolping family. They spoke about their situation in life, their fears and aims. They played games to get to know each other better and danced together. For some of the youths it was the first time they dared to speak in front of a large group of people.

Beside these meetings taking place every Sunday, the youths learned how to work with a PC, repeated mathematics, wrote and interpreted Portuguese texts, planted plants on the bank of the river Parnaíba to prevent floods, danced, drew and sewed. Furthermore an English course was offered. For the first time there was a reason for the youths to learn a foreign language: German youths would come to Porto. All courses took place in the Kolping house, just with little space.

After half a year, Kolping invited us to send two people to Porto. As long as we would not have been in Porto, the people would not believe we would not break our promise and the preparations would proceed really slowly. Without thinking too long, Larissa Holzki and Jorinde Bartels flew to Brazil in March 2008.

Just after this visit the project turned into cooperation on eye-level. Both sides waited anxiously for the construction of the youth centre, when finally all participants would get to know each other.

Presumably, no one of us German youths will ever forget the day we arrived in Porto and walked to the building side for the first time, the moment we first saw the foundation wall of the Centro da Juventude, which we wanted to complete with our Brazilian friends. After two long years during which we prepared, planed, worked, had doubts and hoped. Now it really was in our hands to turn our dreams into a house out of bricks and our visions into reality. If it had not turned dark soon, we would have started working that day.

As the aim was so clear now, we all wanted to complete the house until our departure. The next morning we started working, lugged stones, shovelled sand and painted beams. In the first days, Brazilians and Germans stayed separated, but after a short time the ice was broken. We worked hand in hand. The building side became the central place to meet and the work created a strong friendship.

We worked with simple means: the scaffoldings were made out of thin tree trunks and wire. The workers instructing us balanced on them in a light-footed way in flip-flops. We had to sieve the sand and gravel before mixing the concrete out of it. The Germans were astonished how the Brazilians replaced the tools they knew. The Brazilian workers were amazed that the German girls helped as well. The Brazilian girls joined in soon, too.

For four weeks we worked under the vertical sun. Many Germans were so over-motivated, that they needed many breaks. However, the Brazilians worked with a slower tempo and an impressive endurance. When some of the Germans were so exhausted by the work and the unfamiliar climate and food they had to spend a day in the hammock, they saw the Brazilian way of working had to be the right one.

After two weeks we could celebrate the topping-out ceremony, the first one taking place in Porto ever. Out of hibiscus flowers and other plants some German pupils made a wreath and Larissa invented a motto that was also translated into Portuguese.

After a hard working day, the manual workers, project coordinators, Brazilian and Germans students and several neighbours assembled under the roof truss. The German pupil Kai Walker and the Brazilian project coordinator Raimundo Ferreira climbed under the wreath. At first, Kai spoke the motto in German, afterwards Raimundo spoke it in Portuguese.

      The centro is upthrust,

      Covered, it won’t still used.

      The bricklayers, plasters, carpenters,

      Are proud to this building today.

      The walls are straight, the roof truss bold,

      Some clouds were drifting over it.

      The bands on the wreath are fluttering,

      On dancing here will flourish the life.

      Brazilians and Germans hand in hand,

      Helped for that this house was built.

      And as long as this building not goes by,

      It would announce, that the friendship still goes on.

Raimundo and Kai exclaimed the toast “Viva a amizade Brasil-Alemanha” – “Long live the Brazilian-German friendship”. The manual workers were at least as proud as we youths were and some of us were even moved to tears.

The inauguration of the youth centre took place at the last day of the German group in Porto. Due to the common effort and with the help of the ambitious manual workers we could finish all tasks: we painted the walls, installed the electricity, the showers and even a small fountain in the entrance.

After a solemn service in church dedicated to the project we went to the Youth Centre. Many youths brought their families, neighbours, interested people and invited people out of politics, church and the over regional Kolping families came.

The portal of the youth centre was closed by a big red bow. At each end a group of youths came together: one out of Germans and the other one out of Brazilians. Together they pulled open the bow and the door. Not all 500 guests fitted into our celebration hall. They gathered on the surrounding area to hear the speeches.

A sentence of Raimundo Joao da Silva, the president on Kolping Piauí, will stay in special memory:

“If all youth of this world could to get to know the impressions and experiences of this exchange project, our world soon would be a different one.“