Our Work in Minas Gerais

About Jaboticatubas

With the extension of 1124km2, Jaboticatubas is part of the metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is inserted in the “Serra do Espinhaco” (mountains) and contains 80% of the total area of the “Serra do Cipo” National Park, an ecological sanctuary with flowers, birds, mammals, amphibious species, fishes, waterfalls and many more marvels.  

Among many of these marvels there are the famous waterfalls of “Serra de Contagem”, “Serra do Bene”, the natural pools of “Bom Jardim”, and the canyons and waterfalls of “Sao Jose da Serra”. Information from the site www.Jaboticatubas.com

Even though, Jaboticatubas is an amazing natural wonder with incredible ecological interest and potential for tourism and research, it is still one of the most impoverish and least developed areas in the state. The population living in the city can only count with one hospital facility with 31 beds and very little resources for technology and medicine. The city survives mostly from agriculture and tourist economy. The industry is very limited, except for Metallurgic exploration.

A large majority of the population (above 70%) lives under poverty conditions and have to move away from the district into Belo Horizonte or another major city in order to find employment and proper education for themselves and their kids or simply to seek survival. Those who stay behind live under harsh conditions, enduring health problems and often have no food to eat.

Our Mission

Our mission in the city is to alleviate poverty and promote opportunities for a self-sustaining path to development for individuals and the community as a whole. We see a lot of potential for growth in the tourism and commercial areas as support for the local economy and the incentive for education and art as a way to build hope and self-esteem for the youth and children to prosper in their future.

Why “Conde Mateus”?

Our Project there is named “Conde Mateus” in honor of Joao Mateus D’Aquino (Danuza’s father), who became a leader in that community and never stopped working for their benefit for over 30 years. His dedication and love for the people of Jaboticatubas gave him the strength to continue his inspiring work there and for his children to follow his steps.

Project Overview

The “Conde Mateus” project consists of three phases:

Phase 1: Relief efforts

The aim of our relief efforts is to alleviate hunger and to help the population with their survival needs. This work consists of distribution of food, medication, clothing, hygiene utensils and house utensils, shoes, toys, books and school materials or other educational materials for children and families. We often distribute electronics such as radio, TVs. and computers to improve communication and information in day-care centers, orphanages, hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

Phase 2: Empowerment and community development

We promote empowerment and community development through education, life skills and artistic training, improvement of resources available for development of culture, tourism and arts as immediate and lasting ways to create more employment and quality of life for the families.

Phase 3: Building a cooperative and educational center

Our ultimate goal is to build a self-sustainable cooperative and training center, which will include local headquarters for Star of Life projects.

Project in Detail

Phase 1: Relief efforts

The relief efforts have always been active with personal efforts from the Aquino family and became more structured after 2000 when the healing center was established. Since 2000, we have consistently sustained distributions of food, clothing and household items at least four times per year. The major distribution of food and clothing occurs during the months prior to Christmas and we are able to reach approximately 5000 individuals!

Three smaller distributions reaching approximately 200 individuals and their families are done in the other seasons.  Depending on resources, we might change the number of distributions per year, maintaining a minimum of four.

The cost for the operation of this phase varies according to resources and costs for food, transportation, shipping and personnel.

For example, in 2005 we spent a total of $5,000 dollars to cover the total costs for food and distribution for this phase of the project (this cost does not include the travel expenses of our volunteers). We were able to make four distributions of food and approximately 20 distributions of clothing, plus 3 distributions of electronics (including computers). We only paid four workers for two days of work; family members, members of the community and volunteers from USA donated all the other days of work and volunteering time. Most items, except for food, were either purchased or donated in the USA and shipped to Brazil. The shipping costs for 2005 exceeded $2,000.

Phase 2: Empowerment and community development

This phase has been active with a series of educational and artistic activities since 2000. We create new activities and restructure the ongoing activities as soon as we have more resources. Some educational activities include health and hygiene seminars, social and environmental awareness seminars, sexual orientation for youth and prevention of aids, creative arts workshops and classes, farming opportunities, job training, cultural festivities and events including expositions for handcrafted objects created by individuals in the community and more.

Last year we initiated an internship opportunity for two workers to learn about farming, by practicing directly in the land with experienced farmers. The success of this internship created opportunities for employment for those workers and for several kids in the community to be exposed to the wonders of planting their own vegetables and trees in more natural ways without destroying nature! This effort encourages future farmers to be environmentally conscious and raises possibilities for innovation and creativity in the existing farms as a way to increase employment.

Another successful day for social awareness was an activity done in partnership with “Creche Irma Maria Dolores” last summer. The day started with a lecture in the main grammar school of Jaboticatubas about trash collection and recycling. Approximately one-hundred kids and eighteen adults attended the lecture and a bus to downtown for a walking parade transported them all. The walking parade included signs for recycling, proper disposal of trash and singing songs to remind the population of the importance of keeping a clean city. Kids and adults demonstrated through collecting trash and separating recycling materials throughout the city. After four hours of parade and education, they were back in the “creche” for a meal provided to them by the Star of Life Healing Center. Two-hundred t-shirts were distributed with incentive for properly disposing trash. Many individuals were clapping for this effort from their front-windows and yards. That day was a fun day for the kids and a successful day for their environment!

Phase 3: Building a cooperative and educational center

Presently, we are researching the resources in the city for the cooperative and also discovering the needs and opportunities for selling the products and services to be provided by the cooperative. There are not sufficient funds to structure this cooperative at the moment, but we have purchased family land and have made it available for the construction of the cooperative. We are exploring the possibility of finding additional property. In 2006, Danuza made some advances on the land by bring electrical power, enabling the Healing Center to lease the land in the minimum conditions necessary for the construction. Read more about the Cotuco cooperative here