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American NPO United Prison Ministries International (UPMI), working together with UK Entertainment company Shlepp Entertainment Ltd. and local community group Lokos Da Favela bring aid, education, and smiles to children and their families in the favelas (slums) of Brazil.
Almost 80 percent of Brazil is favela, which puts into perspective how many people live in what some would call questionable circumstances. The pandemic has made living circumstances even more tenuous for those living in the favela.
People are suffering and struggling from lockdowns and uncertainty that COVID-19 has exacerbated. This also means that most schools have been closed and transitioned to online tuition, something that, at the best of times, suits the 20 percent in Brazil who do not live in favelas.
Educating the kids in the favela has always been a challenge — but now the challenge is greater than ever. To combat this challenge, UPMI has teamed up with Shlepp Entertainment Ltd and Lokos Da Favela, the local community group led by Rap star Kaos MC. Together they are building a UPMI STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) Learning Center in Itinga, Bahia, Brazil. In addition to providing classroom space, the learning center serves as a community hub for local people.
For the last three years, UPMI and partners have teamed up at Easter to donate gifts, food, clothing, and essentials for the kids and their families in the favela, bringing smiles and much-needed support during the pandemic also.
UPMI started its STEM/STEAM teaching initiatives in the USA, working with the renowned and celebrated mother of STEM teaching Estella. Estella has been lauded throughout America for her Brilliant Buses, funded by Oprah Winfrey, which bring STEM teaching to kids (mostly of color) in underserved communities of America.
Natalie Wells-Tibbs and Scott Tibbs, directors of UPMI, decided to build their own STEAM Learning Center in Bahia, Brazil, after speaking with the head of Shlepp Entertainment Ltd, Stevie Eagle E, who is currently working in Brazil on several Entertainment projects.
“Our original plan was to go to Africa first, but after speaking with Stevie in Brazil, we decided that we would start there as we already had people on the ground and connections to make a good start with our Global STEAM program” COO of UPMI Natalie Tibbs shared.
UPMI, an established NPO for over 40 years, was originally founded to help prisoners in the USA, and it has now diversified into STEAM, farming, health, and retreat programs. Their STEAM programs and learning centers are designed to help the most vulnerable and disenfranchised children in communities worldwide. The first UPMI STEAM learning center will be located in Itinga, Bahia, Brazil.
Stevie Eagle E, who will oversee the Brazil learning center, explained:
Our goal is to try to help as many children as we can get the important educational tools they need to succeed in the 21st century. This is why the STEM/STEAM program is so perfect. It engages the kids in a different way and focuses on the fundamental skills they will need to get good jobs anywhere. We know it will be an uphill struggle. We are under no illusions that only a few from many will go on to greater things, but for us, that is good enough.
Our motto is ‘Saving the world one child at a time’ and that is what we want to try and do. It is also very important for us that our learning centers also become community hubs where we can offer services and space to the community for anything that it needs. Within the center we hope to provide; books, computers, meeting space, and facilities to support the local community. These types of centers are severely lacking in the favelas. People don’t have a lot of money or a lot of options and when they do need to get together everything is done in the street or it is unaffordable.
We hope we can provide a place where people can meet and use our resources almost like a modern-day library. For us to make all this happen we depend on sponsors and donors. Without them we could not do what we do so we encourage anyone who wants to help us to contact us and help in any way they can or donate. We are excited about our learning center and hope that it will be fully operational before Christmas 2021. Until then we will continue to hold events to help the community like our Favela Kids Easter event.
The UMPI’s project has already begun to attract some attention worldwide, with superstars like Tito Jackson donating to events to support the children. Brazil remains an enigma to the West, with many thinking it is just sun, samba, and violence. Not many are truly aware of the real Brazil, the communities, and how it runs.
UPMI is going where many other NPO’s and charities dare to tread by going into the Favelas of Brazil. UPMI has already built a strong trust and relationship with the locals, mainly due to the local community group Lokos Da Favela’s endorsing its efforts and paving the way for the community to accept UPMI STEAM Learning center. It is a bold and unique project that will hopefully spread all across favelas in Brazil.
If you wish to help and donate, visit their website: www.UPMISTEAM.com
Or email them at Contact@UPMI.org
Posted and Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Images Courtesy of UPmi/SHLEPP Entertainment – Used With Permission