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When Ester Carro, 25, was invited to join the Fellowship program at Avenues São Paulo, she had already approached three private schools in the area, finding nothing but shut doors. She’s a resident of Jardim Colombo, a highly vulnerable community in the vicinity. She’s also the daughter of a local community leader and she presides the União Educacional Esportiva (Sports and Education League), an NGO she made grow at a dizzying speed ever since she took over her father’s legacy. “I told everyone that I would only step up to the plate if I had their full support. I didn’t want the responsibility if I was to work by myself”, Ester explains. The collaborative environment caught on, and the number of people working with and for her just keeps multiplying.


“We wanted an opportunity to be heard and seen. And at the Fellowship, we’re not afraid to speak up”, says Ester. She has become a very important person in her community and many of the improvements behind her work descend from the learning and exchange of ideas she’s found alongside 5 other NGO leaders at Avenues. With a BA and an MA in Architecture, she first set out hoping to improve living conditions in her neighborhood, but her reach today goes far beyond. During social isolation and confinement, for instance, she centered all donations from partners who provided food, masks, and toys for her community. “Chances are that the kids from Avenues that are growing up seeing these social differences up close will, in the future, incorporate caring for others in their line of work. This is priceless”.


Ester is a perfect example of what volunteer teacher in the Fellowship Program, Julie Hutchinson, called a “leadership evolvement”. One of the projects she pushed forward in the community turned into a movement: Movimento Fazendinhando. The original goal of transforming an abandoned empty dumpster lot into a common public ground for the neighborhood flourished and blossomed into a space for harnessing community member’s talents and craftsmanship through workshops, which culminated in an arts and culture festival that drew international attention from researchers from MIT and Harvard University. All because the community took matters into their own hands and overcame government inaction in their area. And it might be just the tip of the iceberg.





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