Today we had an opportunity to visit the community of Calabar. This particular community is what they call in Salvador a favela. Favela is Brazilian Portuguese for slum; and these communities are historically low-income urban areas. We visited the only school in the area, Escola Aberta, where we were met with many smiling faces of the students who attend school here.
Through the tour, we discovered that this school receives no government funding, and is only still standing due to the unwavering support of community, and the determination of its principal. The school serves to educate not only children ages 3-12, but members of the community as well. Here the students learn math, Portuguese, music, capoeira, reading, along with a multitude of other life lessons that go far beyond a classroom. A local foundation has also partnered with the school to provide dental, pediatric, and nutrition services to the students free of charge.
As I mentioned, there are other programs in the area offered to not only students, but adults as well. At the school, adult cooking classes are offered in the morning for those who aspire to become cooks or chefs; and are held by a local master chef who does the classes for free. At a nearby center, there is a police program that targets at-risk youth in the community by providing positive learning environments in other crafts such as judo and music. While visiting we did have the delightful opportunity to hear the amazing sounds of some of the music students — and even discovered the talent of one of our very own! While this trip was quick, it was certainly eye-opening to much of the topics that have been circulating through our time here, specifically race and health and the impact it has on the population.
But even in spite of this, and the enigma that I’m sure exists around concept of favelas, it was truly a beautiful thing to witness the unity and perseverance in this community. The students who attend this school and these programs are said to be bright, and more openminded than students from other areas, and are also more aware of the racial inequities that are at play around them. What I believe to be most important of all though, given the racial climate in Bahia… is that they are comfortable in their own skin.