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One Step Further From the Grip of Poverty

one step further Valdênia was 15 years old when she taught a little boy in the community to read and write.

“He was 7 and had difficulties learning at school. His mother asked me to help him.”

At that time, Valdênia was in high school, but had no hope to get into a university. Today, three years later, she can see that she was practicing her vocation.

Valdênia studies Pedagogy at one of the most important universities in northeast Brazil, and this opportunity was only possible because she attended a pre-university course supported through a Complementary Intervention offered by Compassion.

Valdênia was one of 47 teenagers who benefited from a scholarship to study at Instituto Coração de Estudante (Heart of Student Institute), a pre-university course created to serve students who couldn’t attend good and effective high schools.

In Brazil, the best universities are federal or state funded. Vacancies are limited, and only the best students, who dedicate hours and hours to study, have the chance to compete for enrollment.

Coming from a poor family who lives in Fortaleza, Valdênia is the first in her family to attend a university. Her mother knows only how to sign her own name; Valdênia’s father taught her and her other siblings to work for the basics in order to survive in life.

For Valdênia’s parents who only completed basic schooling, this is how life was like: to be born, to grow up, to learn the basics to survive, and to work their entire life to earn a living. Getting a better life was meant for other people, not for their family.

But Escola Evangélica Monte Sinai Child Development Center (Evangelical School Mount Sinai) taught Valdênia that it was possible to get a better life, and for it she would need to study hard to achieve. Valdênia kept this in her heart.

“Once, a teacher told to us not to give up on our dreams. She used King David as an example of life. He waited to be king.”

When she got to high school, she tried to find a job to please her parents, but because she was a minor (in Brazil, 18 is the adulthood age) she couldn’t find one, even with her mother pressing her.

The last year of high school, she finally decided to stop looking for a job; she would use her free time to study for university. Her mother didn’t agree with this and warned Valdênia that she had one chance. If she didn’t get into a university, she would have to find a job in the next year and forget about studying.

Valdênia waited anxiously for the start of the pre-university course. During this time, she embarked on studies by herself.

“In order to earn my own money and help my father, not giving more expenses to him, I started tutoring children in the neighborhood.”

Through this initiative, Valdênia began learning how to teach others, and this ability would be important when she got the pre-university course.

The pre-university course she took serves needy adolescents. All its teaching methods are designed to fill the gaps these students had.

In small groups, the students are encouraged to share their knowledge and teach each other. The study is collaborative.

Before the courses begin, the students, who are taught by university students, are subjected to a test to measure their level of learning, then they are separated into peer groups.

“This method was important for me. I had difficulty with chemistry, and I could learn it by studying in small groups. I’m very good in geography, so I could help students who had difficulties with in this subject.”

Compassion supported Valdênia and others buy covering the course’s monthly payment, bus ticket, books and study material for three months, which is the duration of the course. It costs approximately $300 per person for the course.

Taiane was another sponsored child who benefited. Age 18 and attending Pleno Florescer Child Development Center (Full Bloom) since she was 9, she had tried to get into the federal university in 2008, but was unsuccessful as she failed in some essay questions.

When Taiane started pre-university course she was surprised at the method.

“In the beginning it was complicated for me, because we used to sit and just watch the class. But during the course, I realized that this different method is excellent. I had to learn to help the others. So, I learned more than I knew!”

Like Valdênia, Taiane is the first one in her family to attend university. She successfully got into the Federal University as a Library major.

“When I graduate, I’ll open a library in my community to encourage children to read.”

When Valdênia saw her name on the approval list, she couldn’t believe it.

“I asked the monitor to search for my name on the list. I started to jump when he read my name. I was trembling. I got 50 cents (about $0.25) and I went to a cyber cafe. There, I looked for my name on the list again! When I found out, I closed the Web page and opened it again. I did it three times!”

Because of the pre-university course, Valdênia and Taiane are college students and they have taken another important step toward freedom from poverty.