“I grew up around violence but I met people who helped me; now I want to give back.”

Anderson Veridiano, Founder of Project Viela, uses his experience to create opportunities

By Bruno Faria

Brazil’s Statute of the Child and Adolescent states that it is the duty of society and of the public powers to guarantee boys and girls the basic rights to life, health, food, education, leisure and dignity, among others. But in Jardim Ibirapuera, in the southern region of São Paulo, most of these rights are denied to children and young people. Anderson Veridiano Agostinho, “Buiu”, remembers with sadness the moment he became involved with drugs at the age of 13. He now works so that other children from his neighborhood don’t choose the same life path as his.

Despite this place being responsible for destroying part of my life, I consider it important. I need to promote development in this place if I want to change lives here.” – Anderson says.

Now 36, he is the president of Project Viela, an organization he founded to help guide others so that they don’t follow the same life path as his. The project supports the youth from Jardim Ibirapuera by providing them access to cultural activities and sports and teaching them about respect and peaceful coexistence.

Anderson was born in Jardim Ibirapuera and, like many young people from there and other low-income communities in Brazil, was denied his rights as a child living in a community without access to tools to provide a hopeful future. At age 13 he became involved with alcohol and drugs, problems with which he lived for the next 14 years of his life until he sought help from social initiatives in São Paulo, where he stayed for three years. Besides overcoming his problems with drugs, it was there he realized that the activities in which he was participating could be applied in Jardim Ibirapeura. Anderson then consolidated all of his knowledge and experiences from the project to be replicated with the young people in his own community.

Project Viela changed the way I looked at life. I see a lot of neglect from the government, at school, and within the family. When a child is having trouble, no one tries to help. I grew up around violence but I met people who helped me; now I want to give back..”

In its 10 years of operations Viela has impacted more than 1,400 children and adolescents. Despite its uncertain beginnings and Anderson’s anxiety over how the community would receive it, he knew he could not wait any longer and that something needed to be done to transform the community and the lives of its young people.

The project began by hosting cineclubes, but then soon started offering reading and sports activities. Currently the organization focuses on teaching critical thinking in education so that learning can be constructive and engaging for children and youth. In addition to providing academic reinforcement, Buiu wants to help young people see their their own potentials; something that can have an immediate impact on the community itself.