Young people from across Brazil spark a movement to bring change and empower communities.
All those who criticize online social networks and the time young people spend on them, will have to reconsider their arguments now. Especially after the example given by a group of young people from Brazil last month!
The simple idea of bringing people together to make a difference was enough to fire up a group of committed young people who decided to use Internet to respond the needs of Santa Catarina, a region in the South of Brazil that was affected by heavy floods last November.
After the floods, over 70,000 people were evacuated from their houses and infrastructure in the region was heavily impacted. After months, still many families are displaced, living with relatives or in provisory shelters and the prospects of development in the region were not looking at all promising until now.
Oasis Santa Catarina is an open youth-led network that brought together over 3000 people from all over the country (and the world!) to share and contribute their dreams, their knowledge and their skills in order to change the reality of Santa Catarina.
Using the free online social network platform Ning.com, the group started with the “Oasis Game,” a social technology designed by Elos Institute, that kicked off a sustainable network to support and empower healthy and resilient communities in regions that were damaged by natural, human or social disasters.
Since April, young people, business people, governments and the communities themselves have been meeting online to learn more about the situation and to discuss their needs. Also to identify what each person can contribute to the network. The platform optimizes collaboration, even if long distance, among Brazilian society. Any individual is invited to share their talent, skills and resources. The rule is simple: everybody contributes giving their best however they can!
Check out these photos from the project:
However Youth-led Development is not about talking but it is about taking concrete action. So Oasis Santa Catarina network started last month a new “Hands on” phase. For that, 250 students from across the country organized in teams, travelled to the region to join efforts with the locals to build and restore public spaces prioritized by the community. During 10 intense days, they worked in 6 municipalities, and developed 12 different action projects simultaneously. They built playgrounds, bridges and repaired roofs and structures in other public spaces. In doing so, the students more than improved the local infrastructure; they helped spark a movement for change.
The 10 days action was a powerful tool to reinstall self-esteem and entrepreneurship among the local inhabitants from the six cities were the project is taking place. The living proofs of this are the informal groups that are being self-organized by the community in Santa Catarina to keep up the work in the area. But the story is not over yet!
Now that the population is empowered, the local authorities committed and the business community engaged, the project is working to channel this energy and develop a long-term action plan.
For that, an International Seminar of Best Practices (named REUNES 2009) is being organized in November, with the aim of bringing together the best and most unique knowledge in the world today to generate local plans for low-cost housing prototypes and innovative infrastructure that can adapt to climate change.
At the seminar, university students from across Brazil and the members of the affected communities will meet with scientists, activists, engineers, architects from around the world, as well as with local authorities and local business representatives to discuss and learn about possible sustainable solutions to rebuild Santa Catarina.
The outcome of this process is the creation of a Regional Sustainable Development Action Plan. The plan will incorporate the most cutting-edge technology available in sustainable construction and urban planning with the dreams and needs of the local population.
More than that, the Oasis Santa Catarina Network wants to motivate and inspire a youth-led movement that will bring Brazilian society together to collaborate towards building a sustainable country for all. They are the perfect example of how when communities learn to dream together and to creatively collaborate towards making those dreams come true, another world is not only a possibility but becomes a reality.
The team wants to share this model widely so it can be used by populations elsewhere that are confronting climate change disasters. And for that they created a Virtual Network called Oasis Mundi, which aims to engage the global community into a collaborative network.
To learn more about the initiative, and (why not?!) to join their efforts check out http://oasissantacatarina.ning.com.
And here's a video that shows the whole process: