brazil

The play goes on - Projeto BIRA (Brazil)

"Ever since I was a kid, I've had a strong desire to travel all over Brazil, to get to know its diverse realities firsthand. When I'd travel with my parents, my eyes fixated on the landscape passing by, and I'd imagine myself visiting each little house on the side of the highway. I'd invent names and destinies for those kids with barefoot bodies whose eyes gazed into the wind, and for those old folks with crooked canes who spent hours on crooked benches in the shade of jacaranda trees . . . The childhoods and games in each place I passed were what always attracted me the most." - Renata Meirelles, How it all Began, Projeto BIRA

A few years ago - when I was getting started with BRINQ - I was thrilled to come across the work of Renata Meirelles and David Reeks, a Brazilian American couple that was working hard to document and share the toys and games of the Brazilian Amazon. Their stories of what they discovered and shared were truly inspirational and I had hoped to meet up with them on one of their trips back to the U.S. Unfortunately the timing didn't work out and I have since moved on to other projects, leaving my task of building a global toy chest sadly neglected. However a recent discussion on the Omidyar Network about recycled crafts and toys sent me looking for David and Renata's work once again and I was delighted to see what they've been doing in all this time.

Preserving the local soil - Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice

“Every time a shaman dies, it is as if a library burned down.” - Mark J. Plotkin, PhD

Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice

The old caboclo woman stopped abruptly in her explanation of the plant in her hand and stared to the back of our group, at the tall, sun-browned, shirtless man who had just stepped into her garden.  “Ele é índio?” the old midwife asked excitedly, “ele entende muito de plantas, ervas, remédios?!” The newcomer had been just about to snap a photo of the scene but the force of old woman's reaction startled him into almost dropping his camera. He turned to my girlfriend Amber and I with a confused look, “What did she just say?” 

I chuckled out loud and translated for him while Amber explained to the old woman that no, our friend Kenny was neither a “native” nor from the jungle, that he was originally from Hong Kong and - as an energy trader on Wall Street – Kenny’s particular knowledge of stocks and plants probably wasn’t quite what the old woman was hoping for. The midwife’s mistake was easy enough to understand though: a dark brown, muscular man with long raven-black hair, Kenny looked like a piece of history stepping out of the jungle. In fact, most of the people we had met during our weeklong tour of riverside communities had made the same mistake about Kenny’s heritage.  What surprised me instead about the old midwife’s reaction was that even though practically a medicine woman herself - born and raised in the Amazon - she still seemed desperate to pump an outsider for his knowledge of local plants and medicines.

Belated Postcards from India and Brazil

Everyone knows what it's like… you've got stack of postcards, a head full of great experiences and even with all your best intentions, you just get too caught up in what you're doing to write it all down and pop them in the mail.

Well writing posts can be the same way, so here's a belated summary of the last six months in India and Brazil.

More Toys from the Base of the Pyramid

To the casual observer, it may seem like we haven't doing much with toys lately here at BRINQ! However, though we HAVE been pretty busy, we've had our eyes at everywhere for new toys and innovations at all things play. Everywhere being Brazil, Kenya, the U.S., and of course the Internet.

Here are a few of the toys we've come across in the Base of the Pyramid.

To the casual observer, it may seem like we haven't doing much with toys lately here at BRINQ! However, though we HAVE been pretty busy, we've had our eyes at everywhere for new toys and innovations at all things play. Everywhere being Brazil, Kenya, the U.S., and of course the Internet.

Here are a few of the toys we've come across in the Base of the Pyramid.

Side Effects - A Day in the Community

"I'd love to hear your impressions," Theresa said to me as we boarded the bus outside of Rocinha, "about what you think of the communities here vs. where you lived in Kenya." Here was Rio de Janiero, Brazil and in Kenya was Kibera, a million-person shantytown in Nairobi, where I had just spent the previous three months living and working. Theresa and I were catching a bus to the outskirts of Rio for a visit with local community leaders and to spend a "Day in the Community", a regular event that brings together children and neighbors from six of Rio's favelas, Brazil's illegal communities. Theresa and I found a seat as the bus lurched forward and I sat there wondering about her request. What preconceptions had living in an African slum given me about a South American one?

Learning to Swim - Back in Brazil

I've been very happy with how far my Portuguese has come, especially after having been gone from Brazil for so long, yet my ability to communicate here is like being able to swim in a gentle sea, enquanto tudo tá tranquilo, tudo bom! ("While everything is calm, no problem!") But while sitting in on CatComm's open forum, a meeting for feedback from community partners and constituents, I experienced a very different world of linguistic aquatics; visualize the crashing waves at Ipanema, Brazil's most famous of beaches, where the people are beautiful but the weak stay out of the water.

Last night, a dozen of us met inside the Casa do Gestor Catalisador, CatComm's home and technology hub in Rio, located on the edge of the downtown, in a historic district by the bay and the center of the old slave trade. Around us on the Casa walls, on mounted wood or printed t-shirts, hung windows into the world of the favelas, the works of Brazilian photographer Maurício Hora, a man with an incredible capacity to capture the spirit of place on film. Maurício sat to my left, Theresa to my right, the rest were spread out in a circle around the room, community leaders and artists, passionate Brazilians all; not quite what my beach and bar Portuguese had prepared me for.

Bambucicletas and Other "Cycles" of Innovation

Have people found ways to make bicycles more accesible and useful to solving the world's transportation problems for the poor? Here are few interesting examples we came across:A toy designer and BRINQ advisor talked to us yesterday about his recent trip to volunteer in Nicaragua. He shared a number of observations on children there:

"Kids seemed more interested in clothing than toys, we met a lot of people who were much better dressed than we were but who also happened to sleep on dirt floors. Kids wanted better shoes for playing sports and most never had a pair of tennis shoes in their life. But what every child really seemed to want was a bicycle! However, most couldn't afford them."

If you have spent much time in developing countries, chances are you have seen A LOT of bicycles. I have very vivid memories of crossing through a river of bicycle traffic in Saigon (the trick is to walk slow and steady so they can dodge you) and seeing whole families on a single bike in central Viet Nam. Bicycles are the workhorses of many societies, and it's no wonder that children want the freedom and mobility bikes represent.

So this got us started on the subject of innovation for bicycles in the Base of the Pyramid. Have people found ways to make bicycles more accesible and useful for the world's poor? Here are few examples we came across (and don't forget our previous find of a bicycle that rides on water).

A Playful Exchange - O Projeto BIRA (Brazil)

Projeto BIRA (Brincadeiras Infantis da Região Amazônica) is all about playful exchange: an effort to document and share the games and play cultures of Amazonian communities in the north of Brazil.Boy playing with a topProjeto BIRA (Brincadeiras Infantis da Região Amazônica) is all about playful exchange, an effort to document and share the games and play cultures of Amazonian communities in the north of Brazil:

This project is totally focused on games that are carried out by children, in areas where spontaneity is the principal means of communication and where the forest and its embellishments are the source for materials and challenges that motivate a diverse range of actions. These actions are easily recognized by parents, grandparents, and ancestors who play along in some form, even if it's only through a look that conveys the recognition: "Ahhh, I know how to play that." [StreetPlay.com]

Finding Blue in a Sea of Gray - Ute Craemer and the Associação Monte Azul

Changing lives and making toys in the Monte Azul ("Blue Hill") favela in São Paulo, Brazil.

In English, to feel "blue" signifies being depressed or sad, but in Portuguese "azul" (blue) signifies the opposite emotions of well-being and happiness. At first glance then, a sea of gray-brown shanty houses and slums seems like the least appropriate place to be named with this color of hope, but the Monte Azul (“Blue Hill”) favela in São Paulo carries the name regardless, and since 1975 the Associação Monte Azul has been proving that the name fits.

Brazilian Toy Libraries Bring Out the Child in Us All

CCF Brazil has established 24 toy libraries in several rural communities which serve nearly 600 children and 300 adolescents daily. Discarded socks, aluminum cans, and corncobs may look like trash to some, but to nine-year-old Junior of Brazil, they are balls, cars, and dolls in the making.

Syndicate content