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BRAZIL: Salesian Youth Center Holds Inspirational Talk by Paralympic Champion Pedro Neves

(MissionNewswire) The Mama Margaret Salesian Youth Center in Niterói, a municipality of the state of Rio de Janeiro in the southeast region of Brazil, recently hosted an educational workshop for students given by Pedro Neves, a Brazilian Paralympic athlete and gold medalist at the Pan American Paralympic Games held in Toronto, Canada in August of last year. More than 200 youth from a Salesian summer camp held at the center were in attendance to hear Neves’ inspirational story.

A native of Niterói, Neves was 37 when he realized his dream of representing Brazil in the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Due to a lack of oxygen at birth, he suffered paralysis in the brain in addition to atrophy of his right arm, neither of which hampered his desire to become an athlete. In 1998, he began training with the Niteroi Association of the Handicapped and in 2015, became the Pan American Paralympic Long Jump Champion after setting a new national record.

Neves spoke to his young audience at the youth center about the importance of trying hard and believing in themselves in order to succeed in life and achieve their dreams. He shared stories of overcoming challenges on his long road to success and stressed above all the importance of setting personal goals and living up to one’s own expectations instead of conforming to others’ expectations.

Elaine Holanda, director of the Salesian Center, appreciated the message Pedro Neves delivered. “Despite all the titles he has won, he has not forgotten his roots,” says Holanda. “He still lives in the community and does not intend to abandon it. His example serves as an incentive for many of our young people, not only from a sporting perspective, but also in drawing up goals for life.”

The Salesian Youth Center has made sports an important part of its educational curriculum. In 2013, the center opened the Social and Sports School, a collaboration between Salesian Missions of Madrid and the Real Madrid Foundation. Together, they facilitate the “They play, we educate” program in which participants receive nutritional, family and psychological support, regular health checkups and the opportunity to participate in social and educational workshops, gymnastics, crafts, reading and citizenship activities. Training sessions on topics such as health, hygiene, values and the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse are also provided. Outside of normal school hours, participants in the program receive sports training by coaches qualified by the Real Madrid Foundation.

The collaboration between Salesian programs and the Real Madrid Foundation has been very successful, granting more than 2,000 youth and vulnerable children the opportunity to participate in similar programs around the globe. This socio-sports program in Brazil is operating alongside 13 other socio-sporting schools in nine countries including Togo, Benin, Congo*, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Portugal, Senegal and the Dominican Republic.

Brazil has one of the strongest economies in Latin America and is an important agricultural and industrial power in the region. Just over 15 percent of Brazilians live in poverty, with the majority living in the rural northeast of the country, according to the World Bank. While Brazil is making positive changes, there are still large gaps between the poor and the rich and issues of income inequality and social exclusion remain at the root of those in poverty.

Inequalities also exist in access to education and educational efficiency. These inequalities are greatest for children and youth who are poor, live in rural areas or who have an incomplete compulsory education. Salesians working with poor youth and their families in Brazil have developed programs that provide youth opportunities for furthering their education and skills.



ANS – Brazil – Overcoming limitations: a testimony to the boys of Niterói

UNICEF – Brazil Statistics

Real Madrid Foundation

*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.

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