A down-home project
Booster classes and sports are part of the Guardian Angel Program, which involves
235 kids – the children of Eldorado Factory members in Mato Grosso do Sul. Another
highlight is the “Qualificar” professional education program
Written by: Miucha Andrade
Photos by: Lia Lubambo
From left, Ellen Júlia,Rodrigo and Eliane Félix Pereira: music, drama, soccer and IT classes
Eliana Félix got married when she was 19, and she and her husband, José Pereira da Silva, have three children. In 2005, unemployment changed the couple’s life for the worse, so they left their home town, Maceió, in northeastern Brazil and sought work in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. They started out in the rural town of Nova Alvorada and later moved to the neighboring city of Deodápolis, 50 km from ETH Bioenergy’s Eldorado Unit. It didn’t take long for Eliana and José to find jobs at Eldorado: in the cafeteria for her and the loading area for him. The Guardian Angel Project played a decisive role in this new phase in their family’s life. Sponsored by ETH and the city of Deodápolis, the project got started in 1998 through the initiative of Benedito Coutinho, the former owner of Eldorado.
Thanks to the Guardian Angel Program, Eliana’s children, Rodrigo, Ellen Júlia and Eliane, get booster classes in Portuguese and Math and study and play with another 232 children between the ages of 4 and 16. They come from low-income families and their parents are members of ETH (including managers and cane cutters) who have nowhere else to send their kids while they are at work.
Rodrigo, 13, is Eliana’s eldest child. He got interested in the soccer training school, which is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as the IT classes. “I like surfing the web, and I never miss a single class,” he says. The boys and girls at the Guardian Angel Project also go to away games in neighboring towns and cities, as part of an inter-school championship. They have played matches in Glória de Dourados, Paranhos, Nova Alvorada and Fátima, bringing back the medals and trophies that decorate the office of project director Silvia Peixoto de Lima.
“You can only play soccer if your grade average is a C or better in regular school,” observes Phys Ed teacher Riverton Francisco de Souza. Riverton, 28, used to study at a social project like Guardian Angel. He was born in Campo Grande, adopted and then abandoned by his foster parents, and sent to a shelter by Children’s Services. While there, he went to school, graduated and became a teacher. Recently, he had the satisfaction of becoming an assistant director of Deodápolis, one of the Guardian Angel Project’s four units.
“If these kids weren’t involved in this project, they’d be out in the street,” says Riverton. “It’s great to meet up with one of those kids and see that he’s doing well, going to school and getting an education,” he adds. “Our work has become a hallmark and a model for these youngsters. Like me, a lot of them have graduated in Phys Ed.”
Eliana’s daughters Ellen Júlia, 10, and Eliane, 11, enjoy the music, theatre and arts classes. At the end of each month, all the children are encouraged to show off their talents to their classmates in the Awakening Talent contest. They also take part in festivals, recreational activities and field trips to farms on the outskirts of the city.
More self-confident and motivated
Her children’s activities at the Guardian Angel Project make Eliana more self-confident and professionally motivated. In May, she heard about ETH’s partnership with the SENAI (National Industrial Apprenticeship Service) and the City of Deodápolis and signed up for an Instrument-Technician training course. After that she was promoted and left the kitchen to become a factory instrument assistant. “I’ve started earning more money and life is getting easier,” she says. Her new job involves valve maintenance in the industrial area.
Eliana’s course is part of the “Qualificar” Project, another Eldorado initiative. This professional education program got started in May 2007, and the trial run involved 15 people – company members’ children and close relatives, who took the SENAI Sugar and Ethanol Technician training course. “The original idea was to keep them on as temporary assistants for at least a year. But the program was so successful that we have started hiring them after two months,” says Daniel Dorli, the officer Responsible for People Development at Eldorado.
Andrea de Jesus is one of those people. Her sister invited her to take part in the “Qualificar” Project, where she studied and began working as an intern at ETH. After five months, she was hired as an assistant apprentice boilermaker, and she was promoted twice in less than a year. Today, she is a level-II operator at Eldorado’s Water Treatment Plant (ETP). “I open valves, switch on pumps, all kinds of things,” she says. “I apply everything I learn at the SENAI on the job and pass it on to my coworkers,” she adds. Andrea’s plans include taking a course in Boilermaking and specialization in Water Treatment Plants. Her aim is to grow with the company and become the leader of the department where she now works.
The “Qualificar” Project has grown and now benefits 126 community members by offering three more technical courses to train electricians and mechanics. Local residents who are not yet working at the factory are getting a foot in the door through traineeships. Marta Gomes Ferreira, 32, decided to take the Auto Mechanic course and is now a trainee at the factory’s tire shop. Before that, she had worked at a hospital and in a family home. “Now I fix tires and I’m learning all about maintenance work,” she says. One of her classmates, Maurício Alves Saraiva, is a mechanic who takes care of the harvesting machines. Because he lives in a different town, he gets bus vouchers and a BRL 300 grant per month, and stays at accommodations in Vila Ipezal, a community of 110 houses built especially for Eldorado company members. “They really believe in us,” says Maurício, age 24.
The requirements for these internships are simple: the company accepts candidates who have successfully undergone the SENAI selection process and ETH interviews. “They are monitored by company members and groomed to succeed,” emphasizes Eldorado Operations Training Supervisor Elias do Prado. “Thanks to the qualification process we have in place here, they will be the best in the job market,” he guarantees.
When job positions become available, ETH will hire these trainees to work at the Eldorado unit and the other two units that are being installed in Nova Alvorada county. The Santa Luzia I unit is expected to go online in 2009, and the Santa Luzia II unit will be up and running by 2010.
Eliana Félix goes to night school Mondays through Saturdays, from 5:15 pm to 9:15 pm, after a six-hour workday. She pays BRL 52.00 per month for the 18-month course, which is helping her do a better job at work by combining theory and practice. “It’s a bit tiring,” she allows. Her shift is seven days on and one day off, so she has little time for housework. Her husband, José, is the loading team leader at Eldorado, working from 9:20 am to 8 pm. He helps with the housework by washing dishes and keeping the house shipshape. “He’s one in a million,” she says with a smile.
One of Eliana’s strategies for making the best use of her spare time as a mother, wife and professional, is delegating chores to her children. Each of them is responsible for daily household tasks their mother sets for them: “If you go visit my house right now, you’ll find that it’s spick and span,” she says.
At 34, Eliana is proud to say that her efforts to make a better future for her kids are paying off. “Our life has changed since we moved here from Mato Grosso do Sul,” she observes. “In 14 years of marriage, I’ve never gotten as far as we have in the last three.” Her face shows the strain of her busy, hectic schedule, while reflecting peace of mind, because she knows she is getting the experience she needs to be a role model when the time comes for Rodrigo, Ellen Júlia and Eliane to build their own future.
Students at the Vó Nina State SchoolVó Nina School has 340 “grandkids”
In 1988, 10 years after the Alcídia Distillery began operations, the State of São Paulo built the Vó Nina (Grandma Nina) State School in the sugar-growing area. The distillery’s former owners, Lamartine Navarro Júnior and Ruyter Silvera, backed the project and donated the land where the schoolhouse now stands.
At first, the school only offered grades 1 through 4 of primary school. But seven months after it opened, it also began offering Child Education, Secondary School and Youth and Adult Education courses in the mornings, afternoons and evenings.
Today, the school has 340 pupils between the ages of 5 and 58. They are members of ETH, the children of company members and settlement residents from the rural community near the distillery. Over 30 students study at a school associated with Vó Nina at the Laudenor de Souza Settlement.
Working through Alcídia, ETH supports the two schools by providing a range of services – electrical maintenance, civil construction, trash collection, septic tank cleaning, insect control and gardening – as well as supplying cleaning materials.