Fall Newsletter

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Friends and Family of Mundo Real,

These past several months have been exciting for Mundo Real, as we’ve seen our team in both Brazil and the US change and grow. Throughout this development we maintain our commitment to the community, keeping much of the decision making at the local level. However, in accordance with our mission and vision we are always seeking ways of connecting the community to the outside world, and vice-versa. Recently we have brought in some very talented and highly qualified members, who we would like to briefly introduce. Felix Garcia Lopez holds a PhD in Sociology and is currently a University Professor as well as Research Coordinator at the Institute for Applied Economics, IPEA. Abdulrazak Karriem is Full Time Professor of Sustainable Urban Development at Cornell University. George Contreras, is a 21 year veteran NYC paramedic, PhD Candidate in Public Health and University Professor. They are all new and valuable members of our board.

In addition to our developing our team we have also been working our way through the bureaucratic intricacies of legalizing our organizations for tax-exempt status in both the US and Brazil. After several weeks of absolute devotion our team is set to accomplish what often takes small organizations months or even years to complete. Currently Mundo Real is closer than ever to becoming an official non-profit organization in Brazil. While we have been incorporated as a nonprofit organization since 2007 (still working on federal tax-exempt status in US , however), simply registering Mundo Real in Brazil has proved a challenge, attorney Thiago Assis has been fundamental in guiding us through. Once we legally register in Brazil we can greatly increase the scope and scale of our publicity and fundraising efforts there.

All of these developments are key to our sustainability and our vision of long-term and meaningful social change. We are grateful for all of your support in the past few months and are looking forward to continued progress and growth in the future.  Please read below for a more detailed look into recent developments with Mundo Real in Brazil.


During the process of legal recognition as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Brazil we were Thiagointroduced to corporate attorney Thiago Assis. Thiago’s parents used to live in Rocinha, and his story reminds us of the enormous role that access to educational opportunities plays in changing lives.


We are also celebrating the accomplishments of yet another Mundo Real member, Vilson Bezerra, as he has begun his studies in PUC-Rio’s Social Work Program. Vilson is the second member of our team to receive a full scholarship to study at PUC-Rio through the partnership Mundo Real formed with their Department of Social Service. We are all very proud of Vilson, who plays a pivotal role in Mundo Real’s day to day operations. We are excited for him, and look forward to learning more as Vilson and André (now in his 2nd Semester in the same program) share their new perspectives and experiences with the rest of the team.


Detailing the bureaucratic wrangling involved in securing benefits for elderly and disabled residents is hardly a popular topic of conversation. Interesting, however, is the power that such paperwork has over the lives of the disadvantaged people we know and work with. In the past two months, Mundo Real has assisted 5 new residents in receiving long over due and much needed benefits. As previously mentioned, we often serve as advocates for residents of Rocinha who qualify for government benefits and health programs, among our numerous other activities. This service is vital, because in Brazil less than 1% of those eligible for public disability assistance are receiving it. We are pushing to increase this number, because in Rocinha many of the cases we encounter include disabled and elderly residents who are surviving on little or no income whatsoever. Take the case of Jose Manoel, for example. (see below)

Jose Manoel

Senhor Jose is originally from the poverty-stricken state of Ceara, and migrated to Rio when he was 17 in search of employment. Jose Manoel He held various jobs until his mid 60s, and has since been unemployed. Jose Manoel has not received regular monthly income for over 14 years, and although he is of legal age in two previous attempts he had was unable to secure his rightful benefits. It is important to note how difficult navigating legal bureaucracies in Brazil is. For the millions of Brazilians without even a high school, or even junior high school, education this is often a dreaded process, and millions give up after one or two unsuccessful attempts.  In early August, Vilson and Mundo Real intern Kabita Parajuli accompanied Jose Manoel on his 3rd attempt to gain access to unemployment benefits, and we succeeded! Senhor Jose says he thinks his life will change dramatically.  He no longer feels the same shame and reluctance to live, and has begun taking his medication for heart problems again. Meanwhile, we continue to take part in the struggle to guarantee Rocinha’s residents their basic human rights!

Dona Benedita

In July we met Dona Benedita.  Ms. Benedita is a Catholic faith-healer who believes in multiple Picture2concepts of healing. She is highly respected and much-loved in her neighborhood in Rocinha. She has already suffered one amputation as a result of her diabetes.  Though she strongly believes in natural cures, she is open to medical practices and currently uses a glucometer and other materials courtesy of Mundo Real. These donations have proved essential in providing assistance to Ms. Benedita during the last few months. Throughout many of our conversations she confirmed the urgent need for affordable transportation available to special-needs residents in marginalized communities like Rocinha: as currently, she uses half of her monthly income to pay for transportation to and from a single doctor’s visit.


Since June Mundo Real has mourned the loss of six of our beneficiaries and partners in the community. While the passing of each one saddens us, especially when the circumstances were largely preventable, we feel the loss of two individuals in particular. Dona Alcina, 94 years of age and resident of Rocinha for over 60 years, passed away on 13 August, 2009.  Dona Alcina was a precious women and one of the last remaining resident of Rocinha in their 90s. With her loss Rocinha also loses a wealth of stories about the community and the many changes it has been through.

Also, this past July, Rocinha and the Mundo Real suffered a great loss. Jefferson Ferreira de Oliveira, Cely & Jeferson17, the son of team member and tireless disabilities-activist Cely, passed away from complications related to his Cerebral-Palsy. For more than a decade, Jeferson and Cely, an inspirational mother son duo, motivated countless families in Rocinha and neighboring communities in the struggle for inclusion and their rights. Cely’s determined battle to address the dignity and humanity of those with special needs provided the spark for Mundo Real’s creation in Rocinha. Jeferson was a cherished member of the Mundo Real family, and his life will continue to inspire us to work for a better world.

Thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship. It means the world to us.

The Mundo Real team