Our school, Educandário Creche Comunitária Sonho Vovó Clara, or Grandmother Clara´s Educational Community Creche was named in honour of local woman Maria Clara Barbosa. Maria Clara was born on 12th August 1912 to a very poor family. She married young, had 6 children and raised a further 5 grandchildren. Although she was illiterate, she always instilled in her children the importance of education and despite great financial and social constraints 2 of her children went on to graduate as teachers - an incredible achievement for a family facing such difficulties.
This achievement brought Maria Clara particular pride as teaching had always been the profession she had most admired and wished she had been able to pursue. Since an early age she had harboured a dream to open a creche and community centre to help the needy in her local community. As she entered old age she increasingly began to offer shelter and food to abandoned and needy children and vulnerable elderly people in the favela. She became well known locally by the nickname ´Vovó Clara´ or ´Granny Clara´ and worked tirelessly to help those in need - opening her humble residence to all those who needed her help and treating them as if they were her own children.
Maria Clara tirelessly continued this benevolent work for many years and was a much loved figure in the local community. Unfortunately she eventually became frail and on the 26th January 1993 she passed away, aged 81, not before she had returned to school and learnt how to read and write - her belief in the importance of education never waned.
- (l-r) Eraldo, long term volunteer Adam and local teacher Andréa -
For 10 years after her death, her son Eraldo Barbosa did not stop pursuing the dream of finally opening Maria Clara´s creche. In 2000 he achieved his aim and the Educandário Creche Comunitária Sonho Vovó Clara opened it´s doors, offering free education, childcare and food to Mata Escura´s neediest children. His home was converted into classrooms and he funded the work with his own modest administrator´s pension. Since then the creche has relied on volunteers and the erratic donations of food and materials that Eraldo has managed to obtained through his campaigning to local businesses. It has been a constant battle to keep the school alive and continue offering a safe haven for the children of this troubled region, however Eraldo´s persistence is tireless. In his own words - ´the battle is a big one, but I am not going to give up the fight for these children, who are our future, every one of their hugs, kisses and smiles gives me renewed determination not to stop battling for them.´