Migrant women participate in entrepreneurship training cycle

The Casa na Luz project, made possible through CESE’s small projects programme, provides activities for refugees in São Paulo

Venezuelans, Haitians, Angolans and Bolivians.  These women came to Brazil from different parts of the Americas and Africa, hopeful of better days and have encountered numerous challenges, but also welcome and hope.  Supported by the Small Projects Programme, the Casa na Luz initiative was developed by the Methodist Church 3 Association – Luz Region, in the capital of São Paulo state, and promotes training workshop cycles for vulnerable female refugees and migrants.  Training activities will continue until August.

The project aims to enable women migrants and refugees from various countries and contexts, all of whom experience extreme socio-economic vulnerability, to live with greater autonomy in Brazil.  Through training and information, Casa na Luz seeks to expand knowledge about the Defence of the Rights of Women Migrants and Refugees.  As well as providing content about the Solidarity Economy, the Entrepreneurial Cycle, Reproductive Health and Information about Brazilian Culture and History, the project provides participants with food and donations.

Casa na Luz Archive: Financial education course held before the pandemic

The training has been adapted to the pandemic, avoiding in-person activities. The content is transmitted through lessons and short videos sent out to migrant WhatsApp groups.  They receive the training materials and carry out guided activities.  The teams also undertake in-person monitoring and provide donations, emphasizing the use of masks and other hygiene protocols.  They have already participated in training cycles about the Solidarity Economy, found out more about the history of Brazil and content about reproductive health has also been shared.

Refugees – these come from different countries, mostly in Latin America and of different ages, many are already grandmothers and are here with their grandchildren, as well as their sons and daughters.  Migrants and refugees seek out the city of São Paulo to restart their lives.  However, during the country’s economic crisis and high unemployment, thousands of these women have experienced extreme vulnerability.  Religious groups have played an important role in receiving migrant families; one example is Methodist Church 3, which works in the Luz Region in the centre of São Paulo.

Lunch produced by Haitians before the pandemic

According to Eliad Santos, Methodist Church Pastor and theologian, the Casa na Luz project began its work prior to the pandemic, receiving women for in-person courses.  As well as training, they received psycho-social services with a female psychologist and female psychopedagogist. They were offered Portuguese language courses and social welfare follow-up.  The programme also involved round table conversations about gender issues, while cooking meetings were held once a week: “Saturday was the day they liked the most, because it was the Day of Nostalgia, because a group cooked every Saturday.  So they came to Portuguese classes in the morning, then they went into the kitchen to prepare food.  It was a party day, because they made the food, they talked a little, they shared their nostalgia, they said something about their country, its history, and about the food and that’s how we passed our Saturdays”, the theologian remembered.  With the pandemic the dynamic had to change and the challenges for this population have increased.

Casa na Luz Archive: Portuguese classes before the pandemic

The women live in temporary shelters for migrants and refugees.  These are often improvised places, where it is extremely challenging to live with men, women and children all together in very precarious conditions.  The reception that the Casa na Luz provides enables these women to pass the whole day outside these shelters, where there are not many work activities or equipment.  Project activities seek to provide full empowerment for migrants, supporting them to recover their autonomy and making referrals so they are able to access social policies for migrants and refugees.

Support – According to Eliad Santos, the Methodist Church conducted an internal study to identify the focus of its services; this indicated that migrants require the most attention.  “We chose to provide services for women and children and are committed to creating this space for women.  For them to have the best services and be able to pass their day in the best way, enabling them to achieve the project objective, which is their autonomy.  Autonomy to be able to have a home and work and to support themselves in Brazil or wherever they choose,” the pastor explained.

Through the Small Projects Programme, Casa na Luz will be able to continue its training activities, which have been adapted to the pandemic.  “CESE’s work is so important because without it we wouldn’t be able to run this project in the best way possible.  We worked with [the women] in the pandemic, when they were waiting for work or for a home.  The activities helped them to rethink their lives, to rethink their attitudes, to find out a bit more about Brazil, where they are now,”  Eliad noted.  The initiative also relies on the involvement of volunteer groups, who provide additional services to the women and children, using the Paulo Freire Method and the knowledge exchange approach.