UMCOR is supporting Shade and Fresh Water, an Advance project of Global Ministries, to provide a holistic health curriculum to at-risk children living in Brazil slums.
By Judith Santiago*
July 12, 2012—Fifteen years old and pregnant. This is how Roberta found herself in Manaus, Brazil. Uncertain about what would become of her life, Roberta had to sort through feelings of fear and shame, compounded by rejection when her local church family learned of her condition. So, Roberta left the church—that is until she found the Shade and Fresh Water program.
Shade and Fresh Water, an Advance project of Global Ministries, is an after school program for children ages 6 -14 that come from low-income areas. The program provides education on self-esteem, holistic health, sports, arts, and Christian education principles. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is providing support for the holistic health care component of the program, which according to Patricia Magyar, UMCOR Health executive, is a crucial component to address the needs of children living in Brazil slums.
“The children demonstrate much excitement and enthusiasm for the program,” said Magyar. “This presents us with an excellent opportunity to engage them in holistic health principles which they may embrace for a lifetime.“
A Positive Focus
Shade is housed in local Methodist churches throughout Brazil with 68 projects that include 3,000 children. The program, which began in 2000, was designed out of the need to move Brazilian children off the streets and away from drugs, prostitution, and crime—and, like Roberta, away from the vulnerabilities of teenage pregnancy. The program accepts people, values them and encourages them to take a positive action for the future.
Now 22 years of age, Roberta is a leader in the making with both a future she can envision and a hope to live a more fulfilling life in service to others. For the past four years, Roberta has been running a Shade youth program in Santa Etelvina, Manaus at the Methodist Church (Igreja Metodista de Multirao), and now has hopes to attend college to study psychology—a far cry from her teenage pregnancy beginning.
“I didn’t participate in this church,” says Roberta. “My sister brought me here when she was only nine years old. I learned about the Methodist church and was welcomed here,” she continued.
Roberta has two children now who enjoy the activities and education provided by Shade. Her children have become her personal motivators in helping other children in distress within her community.
“I was inexperienced working with children, but God gave me a blessing—another child and a missionary friend named Pastor Renilda who embraced me during my struggle,” says Roberta. “I learned how to raise my two children and help other young children develop through this program. I also work alongside young mothers, who like me had to raise children at a young age. I get to share my experiences with them,” she continued.
Gordon Greathouse, a United Methodist missionary who serves on the National Committee of Shade and Fresh Water with his wife Teca (Maria Tereza Raposo Greathouse), national coordinator for the project and missionary with Global Ministries says,
“Shade is a discipleship group that is not intellectually centered. The program allows children to develop their personality, character and faith, while keeping them as active participants in evaluating and designing the program. This allows them to continue to grow and to be children, even in their harsh surroundings.”
According to Roberta, a child’s development in Shade has its challenges. She recently worked with two parents in helping them encourage their children to join the program. The children were dealing with sexual identity issues and other stressful family issues at home.
“Some children are rebellious, use very bad language and have a lot of relationship difficulties,” says Roberta. “We need to embrace them. At least at Shade, the child can experience love and care.”
Shade and Fresh Water follow seven basic principles that make the program highly successful in building future leaders like Roberta. The principles range from creating a loving environment, enabling children and teenagers to become proactive, socially responsible citizens, helping them develop healthy values and character that are grounded in a Christian vision, to protecting children and teenagers against abuse and exploitation. The program gives children a way out of their everyday environment and helping them to see from a different perspective.
“I try to help the children within my abilities,” says Roberta. “I can’t take the parent’s authority, but I can be a friend, and in doing so, I’m serving God. Without a doubt, Shade is a project of God.”
Watch this video by UMCOR to learn more about the Shade and Fresh Water project. You can also support this work by giving your gifts to Shade and Fresh Water, Advance #11580A
*Judith Santiago is the Media Communications Associate for UMCOR