For the past 20 years, JELA has joined hands with various Lutheran-affiliated education and social welfare institutions in Brazil to help children living in the poverty-stricken “favela” by providing basic education, skill-based training, health consultation and counseling to needy children. These initiatives were designed to mitigate the chances of these children ending up on the street, and being subjected to a life of crime and violence.
The start of JELA’s mission work in Brazil began in 1997 when lay members of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC) traveled to Brazil meet with church leaders and to see first-hand the condition of children living in the “favela” slum areas. As a result of this experience, the delegation from Japan launched a Brazil Street Children Program, aimed at supporting child education programs that would prevent children from living on the street. JELA accepted managerial oversight of the program in 2001, and soon afterwards expanded the program to include the sending of Japanese Christian volunteers to serve for a period of up to two years.
Programa Comunitario da Reconciliacao (Community Reconciliation Project): A key mission partner in Brazil is the Community Reconciliation Program in Sao Paulo, which was established in 1986 by the Lutheran Peace Church in Villa San Jose. The comprehensive program provides childcare and education program for young children, 2 to 6 years old and a youth vocational training center for children 7 to 16 years old. At any one given time, over 500 children participate in the program which provides a future of hope by providing basic education, health guidance and nutrition.
Centro Comunitario Casa Mateus (House of Matthew): Another Brazil-based mission partner is the House of Matthew, also located near Sao Paulo. Here, too, the overall mission objective is to provide youth living in the slums a skill-based or vocational education, thus equipping children with the needed skills to gain fulltime employment. Since 2003, JELA has provided support for the “Youth Work Assistance Program”, whereby youth are trained in computer use, resume writing, public speaking and debate, and writing.
Paroquia Evangelica Luterana Nipo-Brasileira (Fellowship of the Japanese Evangelical Lutheran Church): In an effort to enhance the Christian education of youth living in the slums, JELA works with the JELC and the Lutheran church in Brazil to provide worship services and church school education programs to more than 50 children from the Diadema area. This unique program guides children from the slums by providing an area for recreation, combined with adult supervision and support. JELA specifically supports the cost of weekly bus transportation for youth to travel from the slum areas to the Sao Paulo church.
Centro Social e Creche Bom Samaritano (Good Samaritan Daycare Center): JELA also provides support to the Good Samaritan Daycare Center in Rio de Janeiro, which provides daycare and education programs for over 100 children, aged 2 to 6 years old. JELA provides financial support for education and food supplies as well as upkeep on the building.
Centro Infantil Lupicinio Rodorigues (Rodrigues Infant Center): Located in Porto Alegre, the Rodrigues Infant Center provides daycare and education support for children under 7 years old. Currently, 65 children participate in daily education programs and receive two nutritious meals each day. JELA has been active in supporting this important outreach to help these children by providing a safe environment to learn and play.
Centro Diaconal Evangelico Luterano (CEDEL): The CEDEL education program was established in 2000 to provide continued education for the children completing the preschool program at the Rodrigues Infant Center. This particular program provides a broad range of vocational training programs for youth ages 7 to 16 years old. A highlight of JELA’s support included working with the institution and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2008 to secure funding for the construction of a school building, thus allowing CEDEL to expand it outreach to help more youth. JELA Board Chair and staff joined members of the Japan Consulate in Porto Allegre for the opening ceremony held on November 7, 2008.
IECLB – PPD (IECLB Lutheran Diaconia): Another mission program supported by JELA throughout the years includes the IECLB Lutheran Diaconia which is actively engaged in helping people with mental illness and disabilities. This particular program provides opportunities for fellowship, and serves as an advocate for the disabled in Brazil.