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.

German Ute Craemer was living and teaching in São Paulo, Brazil in 1975 when a young girl from the Monte Azul favela knocked on her door begging for food. The teacher recognized the girl's needs went beyond food though, so she built a work area in backyard to help meet the needs of those living in the Monte Azul favela. Her backyard workspace would later migrate to the favela and become the Associacão Monte Azul.

Today the Associacão improves the lives of thousands of favelados (favela dwellers) through a number of its services, including basic literacy education, kindergarten and preschool, outpatient clinics, carpentry and electrical workshops, bakeries and toy making facilities. Monte Azul’s toy dolls and wooden educational toys are sold both locally in Brazil and throughout the world, and its “bonecas” (dolls) are popular items in Fair Trade shops.

Several photos of Monte Azul toys are depicted below, with more available from Monte Azul’s product catalog.

Links and Resources:

Associação Communitario Monte Azul - (Portuguese) (German) - home site in English, Portuguese, and German

The Whole Child Initiative - with a summary of the Monte Azul organization

Favela Children: A Brazilian Diary - Ute's Craemer's 1981 book on children's life in the favela, translated into English and available for download

Ute Craemer - more about the founder


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