AE Documentary Film Project > Brazil Slum Outreach Project
Following the 4th Aiki Extensions Conference at the University of Chicago in October 2002, José Roberto Bueno returned to Brazil "inspired to create a non-profit organization to educate children of the slums through the practice of aikido."
Soon after, in a favela (slum area) outside São Paulo, Bueno led students from his dojo to create Ação Harmonia Brasil (Harmony Action Brazil). And now, dozens of volunteers work with AHB to better the lives of impoverished children. Every week, teams of yudansha and senior students coach children between ages seven and seventeen.
Volunteer Janaina Oliveira describes the program:
"Two years ago we had problems of aggressive behavior among children. It was obvious that they lived in a violent environment, at home and in their community. Children and adolescents used to report what they had seen the day before, such as their uncle attacking his neighbor, their father hitting their mother, neighbors fighting over drug traffic. They described these events as something common and natural; this type of incident was part of the normal scene of their lives.
"Aikido came and showed a new way, a new posture, a new heart. Levels of physical and verbal aggression decreased significantly. We could observe more security, self-confidence, and respect not only among the children, but also for the staff, the family, and even at school.
"They learned to work together as a team and respect others because aikido promotes these qualities. Today we have a group of children who are making progress toward transformation of body care, mind, and good heart. They are making a difference in their families, at school and in the community."
Bete Romanzini, a volunteer instructor with Bueno Sensei and a student of Kawai Sensei, also remarked on the substantial changes he sees taking place.
"Normally, our students cannot pay any attention, or even receive a hug. They exhibit serious difficulties in their relationships, lazy-mindedness, and any other troubles one can imagine. After one year of aikido classes, to my great delight, they look happy and disciplined. Their bodies are changing, energy is coming up. Personally, I feel that aikido helps them be happy. And in a happy mind, violence cannot enter."
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