Home World The transformation of a favela: from muddy streets to high-speed Wi-Fi

The transformation of a favela: from muddy streets to high-speed Wi-Fi

The transformation of a favela: from muddy streets to high-speed Wi-Fi

The “Boca del Sapo” is now called “Favela de los Sueños”. In just a year and a half, this impoverished community in Brazil’s metropolitan region of Sao Paulo has gone from sloshing mud streets with no streetlights to high-speed Wi-Fi and a new name.

The change, driven by a coalition of NGOs and businesses, has surprised the community itselfof about 190 families, mostly black.

“I’m not staying here another day.” This was what Pauliana Leite thought four years ago, when she emigrated from the state of Bahia, in the northeast of the country, in search of a better future and came across a favela drenched in rain and darkness.

Not even the uber that was taking us wanted to get close out of fear“recalls Leite, 36, about that night when she arrived with her four children. “I was very angry with my partner for having brought us here,” she adds.

In the end, Leite did not carry out the threat to return to Bahia and has seen how the community was transformed: paved streets, public solar-powered streetlights and colorful murals with always optimistic messages, such as “Never give up on your dreams.”

The Favela de los Sueños, as it has been renamed by the residents, has been the focus of a pilot project in which several NGOs led by the Gerando Falcoes association collaborate.

The objective was to end poverty within a period of 2 years and with a budget of 6.5 million reais (1.3 million dollars or 1.2 million euros).

First, the NGOs dealt with the most urgent. They spoke with the Mayor’s Office and the electricity company to bring the services to the favela and installed micro-treatment stations for the sewage that was discharged into the brown stream that runs through the community.

Some wooden houses were replaced by buildings made of recycled material, made from hundreds of tubes of toothpaste, and others had their floors paved with clay.

“When it rained and the river grew, we had to put the children in bed because the ground was covered in mud,” explains Leite in front of her house, to which she now wants to add a second floor.

THE EMPLOYMENT CHALLENGE

To facilitate access to the job market, Gerando Falcoes has given entrepreneurship courses to the inhabitants and has met with companies in the area to convince them to hire people from the favela, against whom innumerable prejudices weigh.

The NGO ensures that 125 people have found employment and that another 80 have found ways to generate income by other means.

Pamela Costa, for example, is dedicated to collecting discarded material and selling it to a recycling startup associated with the project.

But what amazes him the most are the plugs in his new house. “Look at them,” the 31-year-old says happily. “Before we didn’t even have light or we had to make do with a ‘cat’ (irregular connections to the main network).”

Costa also has a digital postal address created from Google Maps coordinates that allows him, among other things, to receive the gas cylinder at his doorstep instead of having to walk to the other end of the neighborhood.

Gerando Falcoes wants to take the method to other places “multidimensional” followed in this community, although the challenge is immense: there are 11,403 favelas in Brazil with a total population of 16 million people, 40% more than 12 years ago, according to official data.

With the project in the Favela de los Sueños concluded, the NGO is now preparing to hand over to the inhabitants and the authorities responsible for basic services such as the sewerage network, from which the community remains disconnected.

“There is also a need for the State to do its part; we do not want to replace public power,” says Nina Rentel, one of Gerando Falcoes’ managers.

Despite doubts about the future of the community, Pauliana Leite is confident and has plans to open a haberdashery store in the favela that will be called “Familia L”.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but nobody wants to go back to business as usual,” he says.

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