By Candy Pilar Godoy, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A new project named +Oportunidades (More Opportunities) is aimed at promoting education and capacity building for at-risk youth in Brazil. It was put into action in September, 2010, when a group of individuals, including the United States Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon, the U.S. General Consul to Rio de Janeiro Dennis W. Hearne, other authorities of the U.S. government, and a handful of large scale company CEOs came together to discuss the exciting new program.
The +Oportunidades project will run from 2011 until 2016 and have an initial goal of benefiting 1,000 young Brazilians per year. Those between the ages of sixteen and 29 who have completed or are in the process of completing high school are eligible to participate.
So far 600 students from approximately eighteen public schools, some within UPP communities such as Complexo do Alemão, have begun the program. Courses will last one year and include 100 hours of basic English language training and 200 hours of socio-professional qualification.
“This is a unique accomplishment that demonstrates how U.S. companies, the U.S. government and the Brazilian government can work together, as partners, with the goal of assisting,” remarked U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon.
Besides teaching basic English language training, the program will help students develop essential skills for entering the labor market. Their curriculum will include components of information technology, tourism, communication, entrepreneurship, and leadership, among other things, where they will learn teamwork, critical thinking, and life planning.
An important outlook is to enable students to benefit from employment opportunities generated by the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. The project will “successfully prepare Brazilian youth to obtain more opportunities in the formal labor market and, in turn, improve their life quality,” explains USAID/Brasil Project Director Lawrence Hardy.
Youths with disabilities have also benefited from +Oportunidades. Through a partnership with Institute Benjamin Constant (IBC), thirteen students with visual disabilities have begun a specially designed course. They are currently enrolled in classes teaching basic English, employability, and information technology.
The program is a step forward in promoting sustainability for Brazil’s future, and +Oportunidades is an important Education project for the +Unidos (Mais Unidos) Group. Created in October 2006 by the U.S Ambassador to Brazil, the +Unidos Group is a partnership between the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) and American companies in Brazil, such as Chevron, Ford, IBM, Microsoft and Motorola to name just a few.
The group aims to strengthen public and private alliances and to promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). During a one day visit to Brazil, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the “great example” of corporate social responsibility, and hoped that the current model in Brazil would influence other parts of the world.
Besides Rio de Janeiro, the +Oportunidades project has also successfully launched in Salvador, Bahia.
As Hardy explains, “The +Unidos model clearly demonstrates that when we engage as partners we can be stronger as a whole than if each of us operates in isolation.”
To find out more about the +Oportunidades project, including how to make donations, please see the web page.